Cold Mountain

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Ada Monroe Character Analysis

The other main character of Cold Mountain, Ada is a wealthy, somewhat spoiled young woman who must learn how to take care of herself following the devastation of the Civil War. When Ada’s father, Monroe, moves from Charleston to Black Cove, Ada catches the eye of the young, handsome Inman, and the two develop a warm, if repressed, romance—one that’s cut short by the beginning of the war. After her father dies, Ada is on the verge of giving up all hope and starving to death. But with the help of Ruby Thewes, Ada learns how to farm, plow, sew, etc. Throughout the book, Ada—like Inman—has flashbacks to her time before the war, and seems to have a deep attraction to Inman. In the absence of “high culture,” Ada learns how to live simply, practically, and peacefully. Upon Inman’s return, Ada tries to bring him into the new life she’s built for herself in Black Cove, and she’s heartbroken when he’s killed. Even so, she continues with her duties as a farmer, moving from day to day instead of dwelling on the tragedies of the past.

Ada Monroe Quotes in Cold Mountain

The Cold Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Ada Monroe or refer to Ada Monroe . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Cold Mountain published in 2006.
Chapter 2 Quotes

Cookery had become a pressing issue for Ada. She was perpetually hungry, having eaten little through the summer but milk, fried eggs, salads, and plates of miniature tomatoes from the untended plants that had grown wild and bushy with suckers. Even butter had proved beyond her means…

Related Characters: Ada Monroe
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Ada Monroe, another resident of the area around Cold Mountain, has come to live all by herself on her father's farmland. Ada is an intelligent woman, but she has no practicality--she can read and write, but she can barely cook, let alone farm.

Although the novel is partly the story of Inman's odyssey to return to his childhood town, the novel is also the story of Ada's coming-of-age. Over the course of the book, Ada learns to take care of herself and take care of her father's property at the same time. In this early scene, Ada is barely able to feed herself; just as she is spiraling into starvation, her farm is spiraling into decay. Thus, Frazier will pair external description of Ada's attempt to control her land with the more psychological story of how Ada grows into a confident young woman.

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Even now, return to Charleston was a bitter thought and one that her pride rejected. There was nothing pulling her back there. Certainly not family. She had no relatives closer than her cousin Lucy, no kindly aunts or doting grandparents welcoming her return. And that state of kinlessness too was a bitter thought, considering that all around her the mountain people were bound together in ties of clan so extensive and firm that they could hardly walk a mile along the river road without coming upon a relative.

Related Characters: Ada Monroe , Lucy
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

Ada Monroe has just lost her father, her closest relative in the world. Ada has no mother and no siblings, so she's essentially alone in the world. Frazier draws an important contrast between Ada's state of alienation and the claustrophobic "closeness" of other families in the area. Where Ada has no family to speak of, at least not in Cold Mountain, Ada's neighbors have huge families, and they all live in the same place.

The passage establishes kinship as the informal structure of society in a war-torn United States. Because the formal governments of the country are in chaos, American citizens must rely on other forms of law and order to survive. Family provides a natural point of organization--even if there's no governor, mayor, or president, the "family unit" provides a check on crime and misbehavior, encouraging loyalty and respect. And yet Ada doesn't even have a family--thus, in the midst of the Civil War, she is doubly isolated. And yet Ada's isolation--both from her family and from her society--is a blessing as well as a curse. Because she has no family, Ada will have the freedom to create her own artificial family with Ruby, Inman, etc.

Chapter 4 Quotes

After Ada made her decision known, Ruby wasted no time. She knew who had excess animals and produce, who would be willing to trade favorably. In this case it was Old Jones up on East Fork she dealt with. His wife had coveted the piano for some time, and knowing that, Ruby traded hard. Jones was finally made to give for it a pied brood sow and a shoat and a hundred pounds of corn grits.

Related Characters: Ada Monroe , Ruby Thewes
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Ada joins forces with Ruby, a young woman who's vastly experienced in farming and living independently. In this passage, Ruby shows Ada how to survive on her farmland--the two women trade Ada's "useless" possessions, such as her piano, for useful items like corn grits and animals.

The passage illustrates the vast, informal economy that flourished in the United States during the Civil War. Without a reliable system of currency, people exchanged goods for other goods--a pig for a piano, etc. Frazier also suggests that Ada is turning a corner, abandoning the time in her life when she had the luxury of indulging in "useless" pleasures like piano music. From now on, she'll have to be practical, spending all her time and energy surviving and keeping up her property.

Chapter 8 Quotes

He wished Claire not to marry before her eighteenth birthday. I agreed. Two years seemed not too long to wait, and a fair request on his part. Within a few days he took me home to dinner as his guest. My introduction to your mother was at his hand. I could see in her eyes that she knew me from the night in the yard, but she said not a word of it. I believed from the beginning that my feeling toward her was returned.

Related Characters: Monroe (speaker), Ada Monroe , Claire Dechutes
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Ada remembers everything her father, Monroe, told her about her mother, Claire. As the passage makes clear, Monroe and Claire both grew up in a society in which sex and sexuality were strictly monitored at all times. Women like Claire were policed in their sexual behavior--their fathers forbade them from marrying before a certain age, for instance, and even then only to someone the father approved of. The passage also suggests how romance works in a strictly controlled society like this--Monroe is forced to "guess" whether or not Claire returns his affections, because his interactions with her mostly pass through the mediation of her father.

It's interesting that Ada's only real memories of her mother are likewise mediated by her father. Since Claire died giving birth to Ada, Ada has never had a strong female presence in her own life. The absence of a mother-figure suggests why Ada's coming-of-age arrives so late in her life: without a strong maternal presence to guide her into adulthood, Ada is forced to fend for herself.

The months when we knew you were to come seemed a strange blessing for a pair such as we were: old and marred by the past. When Claire died in childbirth, I could not hardly think that God would be so short with us. I could do little for weeks. Kind neighbors found a wet nurse for you and I took to my bed.

Related Characters: Monroe (speaker), Ada Monroe , Claire Dechutes
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Monroe continues to tell Ada about her mother, Claire. As Monroe explains, Ada's birth was a bittersweet experience, since Claire died in childbirth. In part, Claire died giving birth to Ada because she was a little older than the average mother--Claire had already been involved in a long relationship before she settled down with Monroe.

The passage foreshadows one of the key themes of the novel--the tradeoff between life and death, between happiness and misery. Here, Ada's birth is "balanced out" by Claire's death, much as the birth of Ada's child will be balanced out by Inman's untimely death. A spirit of gloom and sadness hangs over even the happiest moments in Cold Mountain, reflecting the mood of the post-war United States.

Chapter 10 Quotes

—Here is far enough, she said. Go on back. As you said, I'll see you when I see you.
—But I hope that's soon.
—We both do, then.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Ada Monroe (speaker)
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Inman says goodbye to Ada Monroe, with whom Inman has struck up an intimate romance. Inman is about to ship off to fight in the Civil War, and he's unsure if he'll ever see Ada again. Inman's final interaction with Ada before he leaves is poignantly understated--the two lovers agree that they wish to see one another very soon.

It's interesting to recognize that while Inman is traveling back to Cold Mountain in large part to reunite with Ada, it's not clear that he's doing so until now--about halfway through the book. Because of Frazier's careful structuring, readers get the sense that Ada and Inman are gradually "remembering" their love for one another--they're slowly emerging from the haze of war and depression to reunite. Furthermore, the understated tone of the passage suggests that Inman and Ada's love is far from over--indeed, it's not until they're separated from one another that their passion for each other truly begins to flourish.

Chapter 12 Quotes

To Ada, though, it seemed akin to miracle that Stobrod, of all people, should offer himself up as proof positive that no matter what a waste one has made of one's life, it is ever possible to find some path to redemption, however partial.

Related Characters: Ada Monroe , Stobrod Thewes
Related Symbols: The Fiddle
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

Ada and Ruby meet Stobrod, Ruby's deadbeat father. Stobrod is, in many ways, a contemptible character: instead of raising Ruby as a father should, Stobrod has spent most of his life on the road, traveling from town to town in search of money and food.

Yet in spite of his lackluster parenting, Stobrod now seems to be a symbol of redemption and self-improvement. For all his former moral ugliness, Stobrod is now capable of playing beautiful fiddle music--he brings great joy and contentment to both Ada and Ruby by performing. Ada concludes that Stobrod has proven that it's possible to find at least "partial" redemption for one's sins.

Notice that Ada uses the word "partial." In the world of Cold Mountain, it's impossible to forget the agony of the past altogether (whether "the past" means the nightmare of the Civil War or the pain of abandonment). Human beings are capable of striving to overcome their sins, but there's no evidence that it's possible to surpass one's sins altogether.

Chapter 18 Quotes

He would come walking up the road into Black Cove, and he would be weary looking. What he had been through would show in his face and in his frame, but only so much as to suggest heroism. He would be bathed and in a clean suit. Ada would step out the door onto the porch without knowing he was coming, just going about her doings. She would be dressed in her fine clothes. She would see him and know him in every feature. She would run to him, lifting her skirts above her ankle boots as she came down the steps.

Related Characters: Inman , Ada Monroe
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Inman imagines how his reunion with Ada might play out: perhaps he'll get a chance to bathe and wear a suit, and perhaps the sight of Inman will delight Ada to the point where she'll rush down to greet him and embrace him.

As we'll see very soon, Inman's actual reunion with Ada will be very different from the one he's imagining. And yet it's important to consider the importance of Inman's "reunion fantasy." Inman has traveled hundreds of miles by foot, just so that he can see Ada once again. Throughout his journey, his reunion fantasy has been a beacon of hope, inspiring him to keep moving forward, even when his chances of ever seeing Ada again seem pretty hopeless. In short, Inman has decided to overcome his trauma by reuniting with Ada. His idea of how the reunion will play out might not be realistic, but it provides the spiritual nourishment he needs.

Chapter 19 Quotes

—I'm ruined beyond repair, is what I fear, he said. And if so, in time we'd both be wretched and bitter.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Ada Monroe
Page Number: 333
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman lays bare his deepest fear to Ada: the Civil War has destroyed him, turning him into a violent, nihilistic wreck. Inman fears that he’ll spend the rest of his life reliving the horrors of the battlefield. It’s only in this moment that we fully recognize the scope of Inman’s quest to return to his childhood home in Cold Mountain. With his life and body in ruins, Inman turns to the last place where he can remember being happy—Cold Mountain—in the hopes that he’ll be able to “turn back the clock” to a time before he was "ruined beyond repair."

By the same token, Inman has also returned to Cold Mountain in the desperate hope that Ada will be able to help him through his troubles. Inman fears that he’ll marry Ada, but then poison her with his trauma and “bitterness.” Nevertheless, Inman looks to Ada—desperately, and maybe even a little selfishly—as a relief for his pain.

Epilogue Quotes

Ada had tried to love all the year equally, with no discrimination against the greyness of winter, its smell of rotted leaves underfoot, the stillness in the woods and fields. Nevertheless, she could not get over loving autumn best, and she could not entirely overcome the sentimentality of finding poignancy in the fill of leaves, of seeing it as the conclusion to the year and therefore metaphoric, though she knew the seasons came around and around and had neither inauguration nor epilogue.

Related Characters: Ada Monroe
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

In the Epilogue to the novel, we learn what happens to Ada after Inman’s tragic death. Ada simply carries on with her life—she carries on taking care of her farm, proving that she’s truly “come of age” and become a confident, capable adult. At the same time, Ada never entirely forgets Inman—she hangs on to her grief, year after year. And yet Ada doesn’t allow her grief to weigh her down. Instead of wallowing in the tragedy of her lover’s passing, she turns to her work, her friends (Ruby, for example), and above all her child (with Inman) for happiness and contentment. In short, the rest of Ada’s life is bittersweet—full of joy and yet haunted by tragedy.

In the end, then, Frazier leaves us with the idea that pain and tragedy can be overcome, if not forgotten, if one chooses to move forward with one’s life and accept pain along with joy. Ada certainly doesn’t forget about Inman, but neither does she allow Inman’s memory to shape her reality. It’s appropriate that Frazier ends his novel with the melancholy image of the autumn trees—a symbol of both decay and rejuvenation.

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Ada Monroe Character Timeline in Cold Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Ada Monroe appears in Cold Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: the ground beneath her hands
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A woman named Ada sits on the porch of “the house that was now hers.” She’s writing a letter... (full context)
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Ada’s father, a preacher named Monroe, died recently. Since that time, she’s been in charge of... (full context)
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We learn a little more about Ada. Ada grew up in Charleston. At Monroe’s insistence, she got an unusually advanced education for... (full context)
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Ada is ill-equipped to run a farm. She isn’t even sure why she’s running the farm... (full context)
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Ada reads books in the late morning—by people like George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc. She reads... (full context)
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Ada reads a book about “frontier adventure,” which she finds enjoyable but strangely sad. Afterwards, she... (full context)
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Ada strolls to the chapel on her property. Monroe is buried outside this chapel, and his... (full context)
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Ada remembers her father’s funeral. The preacher talked about Monroe’s kindness and wisdom. Afterwards, men buried... (full context)
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In the present, Ada walks by her father’s grave plot. Walking past the chapel, she enters Black Cove, the... (full context)
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At the Swangers’ home, Ada finds Esco Swanger, Sally’s husband. Esco greets Ada, mostly because he wants an excuse not... (full context)
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Esco warns Ada of Teague and his Home Guard, a group of marauders and robbers who’ve taken the... (full context)
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Sally asks Ada if she’s ready to go back to Charleston yet, but Ada admits that she’s not.... (full context)
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Esco asks Ada if she saw anything in the well, and Ada replies that she didn’t. Sally offers... (full context)
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Ada remembers coming to the town of Black Cove six years ago, hoping to cure Monroe... (full context)
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When Monroe and Ada first arrived at Black Cove, Monroe made a point of introducing himself to his new... (full context)
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Ada goes to sleep, and has a strange dream in which she’s standing at a train... (full context)
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A new day begins, and Ada wonders what will become of her when she returns to Charleston. She’ll probably have to... (full context)
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Ada sits on her porch, and sees a figure walking toward her. It’s a young woman.... (full context)
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Ada quickly grows to like Ruby. Ruby explains that she’s not exactly a servant or a... (full context)
Chapter 3: a color of despair
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...in me, fortifies me.” Monroe delivered the sermon on the day that Inman first met Ada. (full context)
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Inman remembers falling in love with Ada. He began attending church just to see her. Many of the people in Black Cove... (full context)
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...Inman didn’t pay much attention to Monroe’s sermon because he was too busy staring at Ada. After the sermon, Inman’s friends, Mars and Dillard, teased him for staring. A stranger told... (full context)
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...went to see Sally Swanger, whom he knew to be a friend of Monroe and Ada. Sally agreed to introduce Inman to Ada. A few days later, Inman and Ada were... (full context)
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Inman remembers more of his meeting with Ada. Ada teased him for being shy and silent, and Inman finally summoned the courage to... (full context)
Chapter 4: verbs, all of them tiring
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Back in the town of Black Cove, Ada and Ruby have reached an agreement: Ruby will teach Ada how to run a farm,... (full context)
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Ada surprises herself by selling her piano. As she prepares to part with it, she remembers... (full context)
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As Ada parts with her piano and other possessions, she can’t help but think about Monroe, and... (full context)
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At the Christmas party, Ada had a little too much to drink. Sally Swanger, also drunk, told Ada that she... (full context)
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As Ada remembers her experienced with Inman, she looks through the basement of her house, searching for... (full context)
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Ada is struck by how busily she and Ruby have to work in order to survive... (full context)
Chapter 5: like any other thing, a gift
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...adventurers traveling through the wilderness. Then, when he’s very drowsy, he begins to think about Ada, four years ago, when she sat in his lap at the Christmas party. That night,... (full context)
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...begins walking back toward his home, invigorated by his evening, and by his dreams of Ada. (full context)
Chapter 6: ashes of roses
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It’s fall, and Ruby and Ada are working in a field. They pull weeds and harvest turnips and onions. As time... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby give shelter and food to a group of travelers who are moving from... (full context)
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As time goes on, Ada notices that Ruby, despite being a very capable farmer, has a strange way of getting... (full context)
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After talking with Ruby, Ada walks around her property, staring up at the birds. She wonders if the numbers of... (full context)
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Late at night, Ada thinks about a party she attended just before the attack on Fort Sumter (i.e., the... (full context)
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Ada continues telling Ruby about the party. Blount gave Ada a kiss on the cheek, sensing... (full context)
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Back in the present, Ada and Ruby stare out into the night sky. Ada feels an overpowering sense of loneliness... (full context)
Chapter 8: source and root
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Ada and Ruby walk into town, even though it’s raining. They’re on a mission to buy... (full context)
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In town, Ada and Ruby buy powder, caps, and other ammunition materials. They also buy a copy of... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby walk through town, and come across a handcuffed captive telling a story about... (full context)
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The captive continues his tale, and Ruby and Ada listen. In vivid detail, the captive sets the scene: his father, an old man, stands... (full context)
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The captive finishes his story. Ada and Ruby are shocked by what they’ve heard—they can’t decide whether the captive was exaggerating... (full context)
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Ruby tells Ada about her childhood, during which she saw plenty of herons. In fact, Ruby’s mother told... (full context)
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Ada remembers a day shortly before Monroe’s death. She and her father were reading Emerson together.... (full context)
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Monroe continued telling Ada about his relationship with Claire. After nearly two years had passed, Monroe caught Claire kissing... (full context)
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...to Claire, and she accepted. She died in childbirth shortly thereafter. Back in the present, Ada remembers listening to Monroe telling her this story, awestruck. (full context)
Chapter 10: in place of the truth
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Ada and Ruby have obtained a horse named Ralph, which they’ll use to plow their land.... (full context)
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While Ruby leads Ralph through the farm, Ada makes a scarecrow to protect the crops. She rummages through the house for tools with... (full context)
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Ada sets up the scarecrow, and Ruby comes back from her trading with Esco. In the... (full context)
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In the evening, Ada looks at the letter that she’s received from Inman. She has no idea how old... (full context)
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Ada continues remembering her walk with Inman. Inman told her a story about an old Cherokee... (full context)
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When Inman told Ada this story, Ada was unsure how to react—she had no idea what it meant, but... (full context)
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When Ada returned to her home after seeing Inman, she found Monroe, still reading by the fire.... (full context)
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The next day, Ada woke up and went to visit Inman one more time before he left. She found... (full context)
Chapter 11: the doing of it
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...evening moves on, and Inman is inspired to open up to the old woman about Ada. He tells her about Ada’s beauty, her personality, and his desire to marry her. The... (full context)
Chapter 12: freewill savages
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Ruby wakes up early to cook eggs for herself and Ada. As she cooks, she notices a man standing outside. She gets her gun and runs... (full context)
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Reluctantly, Ruby lets Stobrod into the house for some coffee. She tells Ada that they’ll feed him and then send him on his way. Inside, Stobrod tells Ruby... (full context)
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The next day, Ruby and Ada get to work making molasses. In the afternoon, they sit by their barn and stare... (full context)
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Stobrod plays a strange tune called “Green-Eyed Girl” for Ada and Ruby. Ruby is amazed that her father shows so much talent for the fiddle.... (full context)
Chapter 14: a satisfied mind
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Ada and Ruby spend most of the fall working with apples. This requires them to plant... (full context)
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Inside the house, Ada pens a letter to her cousin Lucy, who lives in Charleston. In the letter she... (full context)
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Ada works hard, cutting hay with a scythe. Late in the evening, exhausted from her day’s... (full context)
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Ada politely asks Stobrod how he’s doing, and Stobrod explains that he’s been living in the... (full context)
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Stobrod goes on to explain to Ada how he found his friend a banjo. A few months ago, Stobrod and some other... (full context)
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It’s now late at night. Stobrod and Pangle stop playing their instruments. Ruby mutters to Ada that her father is about to ask them for a favor. Stobrod explains that he... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby go into the house to sleep. Ada pulls out a telescope and points... (full context)
Chapter 15: a vow to bear
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...realizes that the cub will die. He considers taking the cub as a pet for Ada, but he quickly dismisses this idea. In the end, he shoots the cub. Because he’s... (full context)
Chapter 16: naught and grief
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...boy from Georgia, who’s no more than seventeen years old. The trio is headed for Ada’s farm. Stobrod explains to the Georgia boy that Ada has finally convinced Ruby to take... (full context)
Chapter 17: black bark in winter
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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... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby pack shovels, preparing to go and bury Stobrod and Pangle. Before they leave,... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby set out to find Stobrod and Pangle’s bodies. Following the Georgia boy’s directions,... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby bury Pangle near a chestnut tree. It takes a long time to bury... (full context)
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Ruby and Ada resolve to nurse Stobrod back to health. They tie Stobrod to Ralph, their horse, and... (full context)
Chapter 18: footsteps in the snow
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...bear cub. Inman tries to distract himself from his hunger by thinking about reuniting with Ada. (full context)
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...deaths. Inman listens patiently to the boy’s story, then asks him if he knows who Ada Monroe is. He’s amazed to find that the Georgia boy has met Ada. The boy... (full context)
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Inman sets off for Ada. He imagines how his reunion with Ada might play out. He wants to believe that... (full context)
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The chapter cuts to Ada and Ruby, who are carrying Stobrod down from the mountain. They wake up one morning... (full context)
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...and moves toward the sound. As he approaches, he sees a figure: the figure of Ada Monroe. He calls her name, and Ada doesn’t answer. She sees a dirty beggar, with... (full context)
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There’s a long pause, in which Ada stares deep into Inman’s eyes. Inman turns slightly, as if to move away. Somehow, when... (full context)
Chapter 19: the far side of trouble
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Ruby, Inman, and Ada are inside a tiny cabin in the mountains, taking care of Stobrod. As the day... (full context)
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...warm cabin, in which a fire has been built. Stobrod is also waking up, but Ada and Ruby are nowhere to be seen. Inman quickly gets Stobrod some water. As he... (full context)
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Afterwards, Inman walks outside, where he finds Ada walking around in the “yellow light.” Ada touches Inman’s back with her hands and tells... (full context)
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Inman shows Ada the book, by Bartram, which he’s carried with him throughout his journey. He asks Ada... (full context)
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...falls asleep together in the cabin: Stobrod snores heavily, keeping the other three people awake. Ada stays up, thinking about Inman, who looks old and wizened. Inman isn’t the man she... (full context)
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The next morning it continues to snow in the mountains. Ada and Inman go hunting together. As they hunt, Ada tells Inman about Monroe’s death, her... (full context)
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Ada and Inman rejoin Ruby and Stobrod, having failed to catch anything. Stobrod, conscious again, asks... (full context)
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Ada finds Inman lying in bed with his shirt off. As if in a trance, she... (full context)
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The chapter cuts ahead an hour—Ada and Inman lie in bed together. They talk through the night. Inman talks about his... (full context)
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Inman and Ada continue talking. They plan to get married, and to order books about art, botany, and... (full context)
Chapter 20: spirits of crows, dancing
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The next morning, Ada and Inman are still lying in bed together. They’re forming a plan. The war will... (full context)
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...begins to recover. His wounds shrink, and he’s able to eat solid food again. Ruby, Ada, and Inman prepare to return to the farm: Stobrod is finally healthy enough to be... (full context)
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Ada and Ruby head down through the mountains, with Inman and Stobrod taking a different route,... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Ada and Ruby are walking back to their farm when they hear gunshots. Stobrod comes running... (full context)
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Ada looks through the woods, and eventually comes to Inman, lying on the ground. Ada allows... (full context)
Epilogue: October of 1874
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The Epilogue begins, “Even after all this time and three children together, Ada still found them clasping each other at the oddest moments.” The Georgia boy—whose name, we... (full context)
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Ada has spent the last decade enjoying the beauty of the natural world. Working her farm... (full context)