Cold Mountain

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Cold Mountain Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As the chapter opens, the Georgia boy is sitting with Ada and Ruby, describing the deaths of Stobrod and Pangle—he escaped their fate because he went into the woods to vomit just before the Home Guard arrived. Ruby is oddly calm and quiet as the Georgia boy explains himself. The only thing she says is, “Why were you not killed or taken, if you were close enough to witness?” Ada tells the boy that he’ll need to take them to the area where Stobrod and Pangle were shot. The boy doesn’t like this idea at all—he has no desire to return to the mountain. Ruby says that she’ll be able to find her way to Stobrod on her own—she has no need for the Georgia boy, anyway.
The Georgia boy is the lone survivor of Teague’s massacre. Although Ruby has no special fondness for her father, she seems to have no second thoughts about going into the mountains to track him down. This suggests that Ruby, even if she doesn’t feel especially fond of Stobrod, still shares a bond with him: she at least owes him a proper burial (at this point, she assumes that Stobrod is dead).
Themes
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
Ada and Ruby pack shovels, preparing to go and bury Stobrod and Pangle. Before they leave, however, they direct the Georgia boy back to his home. They know he’ll need to leave as soon as possible to avoid being hunted down by the Home Guard.
It’s interesting to see Ada and Ruby, two women, assume a leadership role, while directing the Georgia boy to safety. This suggests that Ada in particular has grown more accustomed to taking care of herself, rather than relying on men.
Themes
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
Ada and Ruby set out to find Stobrod and Pangle’s bodies. Following the Georgia boy’s directions, they venture into the mountains. On their first night in the mountains, they sit by a fire, sensing that they’re surrounded by wild animals. The next day, they come to the fork in the road that the Georgia boy identified for them; there, they find Pangle’s body lying next to a tree. Ruby can’t find Stobrod, however, and his fiddle is also missing. Ruby wonders aloud if the Home Guard took Stobrod with them instead of shooting him.
It would appear that Stobrod is still alive—the absence of his body and fiddle signal as much. Although Ruby hasn’t shown much love for her father up to this point, she seems to grudgingly accept that his fiddle-playing is top-notch—perhaps she suspects that the Home Guardsmen, touched by his music, took Stobrod with them on their journey.
Themes
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
Ada and Ruby bury Pangle near a chestnut tree. It takes a long time to bury him, and Ada has to dig part of the grave with her bare hands. After they finish, they goes to wash their hands in a creek. By the creek, they see evidence of an ancient civilization: an old stone shelter, and arrowheads. As she washes her hands, Ruby is surprised to see Stobrod, leaning against a big rock. Ruby and Ada realize that Stobrod is still alive—he’s breathing faintly, in spite of his gunshot wounds.
For not the first time in the novel, a character survives horrific gunshot wounds from close range. As we’ve seen, these situations aren’t handled realistically; Frazier doesn’t even bother to prove to the reader that such a miraculous event could happen in “real life.” Frazier is seemingly more interested in the aftermath of violence than in violence itself, and this leads him to drag his characters through (sometimes implausible) scenes.
Themes
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
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Ruby and Ada resolve to nurse Stobrod back to health. They tie Stobrod to Ralph, their horse, and slowly descend from the mountain. This is an agonizingly slow process, since they can’t ride Ralph too hard, for fear of hurting Stobrod. Eventually, they come down to an empty stone building near the mountains—seemingly the remnant of an old Cherokee village. There, Ruby uses some of her supplies to cook food for Stobrod. Ada is so nervous and tense that she vomits up her meal. It begins to snow in the mountains—this doesn’t bode well for Stobrod, Ada thinks.
After spending an entire book being nursed back to health and confidence, Ada now signals her moral and psychological progress by taking care of someone else—indeed, someone who’s older and more experienced than she. Still, she’s nervous about doing so, hence her vomiting. Frazier also populates this scene with artifacts from other cultures, such as the Cherokee. This creates a strong sense of decay, history, and the rise and fall of civilization. Ruby and Ada are literally sitting in the ruins of the Cherokee world, but perhaps Ruby and Ada’s own culture is destined for the same fate as the Cherokee’s.
Themes
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon