Overcast by the gloom of the Civil War, Charles Frazier’s "Cold Mountain" details the growth of his characters as they cope with uncertain times. The two protagonists, Ada and Inman, traverse parallel paths toward redemption. While Ada adapts to an unfamiliar mountainous existence, Inman braves the risk of desertion to return to her. Both characters, however, seek love, spirituality, and an understanding of their disrupted world, and through their kindred courses, Frazier conveys the theme of questioning life.
As the story opens, both Inman and Ada survey their unfamiliar situations. Inman nurses a near-fatal wound in a makeshift hospital where he sits “brooding and pining for his lost self” (23). Ada also grapples with a lost self, the self of city social status she abandoned to accompany her father on a mission. Intellectual and “educated beyond the point considered wise for females” (30), Ada lacks survival skills. The death of her father, Monroe, lays bare the extent of her incompetence. Though frustrated, Ada refuses to return to Charleston, where “she could expect little sympathy and much withering commentary” (64), and determines to overcome the challenges presented by her run-down farm. Similarly, as Inman’s wound heals, he cannot resign himself to continue fighting. He steps out the hospital window and into his future. Although under the perpetual threat of the Home Guard, he resolves to waste no more time under the direction of others and begins trudging home to Cold Mountain. In both circumstances, the characters embark upon journeys prompted by setbacks of the past.
While the two sojourners embark upon independence, they also appraise their feelings towards one an...
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...ace, an intricate and “luminous quiver of life” (138). In this thought process, Frazier exposes Ada’s maturity—whereas previously she relied on books as her primary source of knowledge, Ada now trusts her intuition and casts her own conclusions.
The maturity and growth of both Ada and Inman stems from the hardships inflicted by the war. Throughout the novel, Frazier utilizes the introspection of these characters to present the enduring riddle of life. Attempts to decipher its meaning litter history. Various religions and myths resulted, but whom the world will favor over another cannot be predicted. Ultimately, Frazier illustrates that while faith and legends often furnish guidance, each person must interpret the world for himself. In the end, “all you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it’s knowing you carry your scars with you” (421).
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