Cold Mountain

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Claire Dechutes Character Analysis

The mother of Ada Monroe and the wife of Monroe. Claire Dechutes is a beautiful young woman, and Monroe tries and fails to woo her for many years. All the information about Claire is presented to us as a memory layered within a flashback, but in this roundabout way we’re told that Claire eventually marries Monroe after a short, unhappy marriage to another man. Claire dies giving birth to Ada.

Claire Dechutes Quotes in Cold Mountain

The Cold Mountain quotes below are all either spoken by Claire Dechutes or refer to Claire Dechutes . 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 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.


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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.

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Claire Dechutes Character Timeline in Cold Mountain

The timeline below shows where the character Claire Dechutes appears in Cold Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 8: source and root
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
...thought that she looked beautiful. Shortly afterwards, Monroe began courting this woman, whose name was Claire Dechutes. Claire’s father didn’t exactly disapprove of Monroe’s courtship, but he also insisted that Claire... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
Monroe continued telling Ada about his relationship with Claire. After nearly two years had passed, Monroe caught Claire kissing another man. Furious and confused,... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
Nineteen years after leaving Claire, Monroe returned to the Dechutes home to find that Claire was back—her husband had been... (full context)