Cold Mountain

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Cold Mountain published in 2006.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He handed it to Inman and said, Come on, cite me one instance where you wished you were blind.
Where to begin? Inman wondered. Malvern Hill. Sharpsburg. Petersburg. Any would do admirably as example of unwelcome visions.

Related Characters: The Blind Man (speaker), Inman
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman--one of the two protagonists of the novel--thinks back on his experiences in the Civil War. He's speaking to an old blind man whom he meets while he's far away from his home. The blind man asks Inman to name a time when he wished he were blind--i.e., a time when he witnessed things that he wishes he could forget.

The passage is important because it establishes the theme of trauma. Inman isn't just trying to journey back to his hometown; he's also trying to rid himself of his own guilt and anxiety at having lived through the bloodiest war in American history. The passage is also interesting insofar as it alludes to Homer's Odyssey, one of the key inspirations for Cold Mountain. The presence of the old blind man at the start of the tale might allude to Homer, the legendary blind poet who arranged and wrote the Odyssey


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But what Inman did not tell the blind man was that no matter how he tried, the field that night would not leave him but had instead provided him with a recurring dream, one that had visited him over and over during his time in the hospital. In the dream, the aurora blazed and the scattered bloody pieces—arms, heads, legs, trunks—slowly drew together and reformed themselves into monstrous bodies of mismatched parts. They limped and reeled and lunged about the dark battlefield like blind sots on their faulty legs.

Related Characters: Inman , The Blind Man
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we're given a window into Inman's inner life, as he experiences a recurring nightmare. In the nightmare, Inman is back on the battlefield during the Civil War. While Inman's experiences were frightening and traumatizing enough by themselves, they become even more so in his dreams; the dead bodies that Inman saw on the battlefield seem to come back to life, menacing Inman and seeming to draw him toward death.

Throughout the novel, the Civil War itself is practically a "character"--a powerful, almost indomitable force that pains Inman and prevents him from returning to Cold Mountain alive and well. One could say that the Civil War symbolizes the specter of death itself. Inman has survived his military service, and yet death still seems to haunt him and call out to him.

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.

Teague and his Home Guard roaring around like a band of marauders. Setting their own laws as suits them, and them nothing but trash looking for a way to stay out of the army.

Related Characters: Esco Swanger (speaker), Teague
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Ada learns from Esco Swanger, a neighbor, about the Home Guard, one of the key antagonistic forces in the novel. Because the novel takes place during the Civil War, there is a draft in place. Thousands of young men desert or run away, however, rather than risking their lives in a long and increasingly bloody war. In order to ensure that the Southern troops do their duty and serve the army, members of the Home Guard (including Teague and his gang) ride around the country, tracking down deserters and punishing them. The irony is that even though Teague is punishing deserters too cowardly to fight in the army, Teague himself is a coward, exploiting his position in the Home Guard so that he himself doesn't have to fight in the war.

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 3 Quotes

As Inman walked, he thought of a spell Swimmer had taught him, one of particular potency. It was called To Destroy Life, and the words of it formed themselves over and over in his mind. Swimmer had said that it only worked in Cherokee, not in English, and that there was no consequence in teaching it to Inman. But Inman thought all words had some issue, so he walked and said the spell, aiming it out against the world at large, all his enemies. He repeated it over and over to himself as some people, in fear or hope, will say a single prayer endlessly until it burns itself in their thoughts so that they can work or even carry on a conversation with it still running unimpeded…

Related Characters: Inman , Swimmer
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman recalls a childhood friend, Swimmer, who taught Inman a Cherokee spell to annihilate life. Swimmer, a Cherokee himself, seemed not to understand the seriousness of his own incantation (or at least assumed that saying it in English robbed it of power). And yet now that Inman is a fully-grown man, he takes Swimmer's spell very seriously--indeed, he repeats the spell over and over again.

Inman's decision to repeat Swimmer's spell reflects his traumatic experience in the Civil War. Inman's experiences in battle have been so vivid and frightening that they've left his faith in humanity and life itself shaken. Surrounded by violence and death, Inman has come to question the value of life. As the novel goes on, Inman will have to choose between embracing life and embracing violence and bloodshed. As we can see in this passage, Inman seems to have adopted a dark, nihilistic worldview, in which everything is his enemy and he could find solace in destruction.

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.

Looking back on her life so far, she listed as achievements the fact that by the age of ten, she knew all features of the mountains for twenty-five miles in any direction as intimately as a gardener would his bean rows. And that later, when yet barely a woman, she had whipped men single-handed in encounters she did not wish to detail.

Related Characters: Ruby Thewes
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Frazier introduces us to Ruby Thewes, one of the novel's key characters. Ruby is a young woman, but she's vastly experienced with farming, fighting, and generally surviving. While Ada may be older than Ruby, her life has been characterized by luxuries like travel and music--unlike Ruby, Ada knows nothing about taking care of herself.

Ruby is a key character in the novel because she embodies the changing gender norms that accompanied the Civil War. In the antebellum period, many women were in a position to do no work. However, following the beginning of the Civil War--and the rapid depletion of the male workforce--women discovered that they had no choice but to do the work that had previously been reserved for men (farming, planting, etc.). Historians have argued that women's growing role in farming and manufacturing during the Civil War paved the way for the rise of the feminist movement in the U.S. in the late 19th century. By the same token, Ada's increased involvement in the care of her own property paves the way for her growth from a timid, childish individual into a strong, confident woman. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

—Listen to me, Laura, he said. That preacher does not speak for God. No man does. Go back to sleep and wake up in the morning with me just a strong dream urging you to put him behind you. He means you no good. Set your mind on it.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Solomon Veasey , Laura
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Inman encounters a corrupt priest, Solomon, who has kidnapped a girl, Laura, whom he'd previously impregnated. Fearing that Laura's life is in danger, Inman fights Solomon and brings Laura back to her home. After Inman returns Laura home, he gives her some advice--don't trust Solomon, or any other man who claims to speak on behalf of God.

Inman's advice to Laura is important for a number of reasons. First, it reflects his disillusionment with the institutions of antebellum America--the same institutions that have sent him to fight in the Civil War and be gravely wounded. Following his time in battle, Inman has learned to distrust authority of any kind, as trusting authority is what sent him to the hospital in the first place. Moreover, Inman's advice to Laura reflects the informal code of right and wrong that he's slowly developing. Inman doesn't trust priests or politicians, but he's no nihilist. On the contrary, he continues to protect those like Laura who are too weak to defend themselves. So in spite of the trauma he's endured during battle, Inman continues to fight for what he knows to be right.

Inman had dealt with gypsies before and thought them possessed of a fine honesty in their predatory relationship to the rest of mankind, their bald admission of constantly seeking an opening. But they were benign-seeming in this quiet bend of the river. It was no concern of theirs how the war concluded. Whichever side won, people would still need horses. The contest was no more to them than a temporary hindrance to business.

Related Characters: Inman
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Inman crosses paths with a group of traveling gypsies. (For the purposes of consistency with the novel, we'll continue to use the word "gypsy," though it's unclear whether they're actually Roma.) The gypsies, we're told, are friendly--they even give Inman food and shelter--and pose no threat whatsoever to Inman's safety. Inman is fascinated by the gypsies, precisely because they have no allegiance to either side in the Civil War; they'll sell their products to whomever wants to purchase them.

Inman--still reeling from the devastation he's witnessed during the Civil War--envies the gypsies for their freedom from the draft and from the violence of war. At other times in history, the gypsies' lifestyle might seem derelict and unenviable--in the midst of a bloody war, however, it's liberating.

Chapter 6 Quotes

And, as with most things, Monroe had an explanation. He said that in their hearts people feel that long ago God was everywhere all the time; the sense of loneliness is what fills the vacuum when He pulls back one degree more remote.

Related Characters: Monroe
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Ada, who is newly confident in her ability to control her own farmland (thanks to Ruby's help), experiences a strange crisis of faith here. As she stares out onto her property and onward into the wilderness, she feels a profound sense of loneliness. She remembers her father, Monroe, a preacher, telling her that loneliness is the sense of the absence of God.

Monroe's explanation for Ada's loneliness is both relevant and oddly insufficient. Ada is feeling lonely, but her reasons are far more concrete than Monroe's ideas would suggest. Ada isn't just missing God--she's missing her father, Inman, and her old life. Even so, Monroe's observations suggest that Ada continues to view the world with a mixture of fear and anxiety. Surrounded by Cold Mountain, Ada feels isolated--it's as if she's trapped on the tiny "island" of her own property. Over the course of the novel, Ada will learn to explore the natural world and "find God" there.

Chapter 7 Quotes

He made a motion as if to backhand the preacher, but the man did not run or fight or even try to raise his staff to parry. Rather, he hunched his shoulders to take the blow like a cowed dog, and so Inman pulled up and did not strike. He reasoned that lacking the will to drive the man off, he'd just walk on and see what came about.

Related Characters: Inman , Solomon Veasey
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman takes pity on Solomon--the corrupt priest who'd made off with Laura, the young girl he'd impregnated. Although Inman clearly despises Solomon, he doesn't strike him, and he doesn't yell at Solomon when Solomon tries to follow him.

It's worth wondering why Inman behaves so passively when confronted with Solomon's presence. First, the fact that Inman refrains from hitting Solomon suggests that he continues to abide by a strong personal code of right and wrong, even after enduring the trauma of the Civil War. Moreover, the fact that Inman doesn't protest when Solomon tries to follow him along the road suggests that Inman--in spite of what he says--might secretly be desperate for human companionship. After months of isolation in a hospital, Inman will take whatever he can get, even if he has to team up with a corrupt priest.

When Odell finished talking he was drunk and sat blotting at his eyes with his shirt cuff.
—It's a feverish world, Inman said, for lack of better comment.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Odell
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman meets a strange man, Odell, who claims to be the owner of a vast fortune, based in land holdings, which the Civil War prevents him from enjoying. Odell complains about the agony he's endured over the course of a lifetime--he's been forbidden from marrying the woman he loves, a slave. Inman can think of nothing to tell Odell, other than to agree that the world is a strange, "feverish" place.

In the traumatic aftermath of the Civil War, Frazier suggests, the only real "bond" between Americans was the mutual recognition of the war's devastation. Inman and Odell don't necessarily share common beliefs or a common religion, but they're united in their disgust with the brutality of the war itself. And Inman's choice of adjective--"feverish"--is interesting: with it Frazier suggests the surrealism and nightmarish qualities of postwar life, in which Inman and the other characters encounter a variety of bizarre characters and situations.

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 9 Quotes

—Come eat supper with us, the man said. And we've a hayloft that's good for sleeping.
—Only if you'll take that saw off our hands, Inman said to the man.
—I expect two dollars federal. Fifty in state scrip, Veasey said, perking up.
—Take it on, Inman said. No fee.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Solomon Veasey (speaker), Junior (speaker)
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Frazier shows us the informal system of bartering that holds together American Southern society during the Civil War. Inman and Solomon help a stranger, Junior, move a heavy load. In return, Junior offers to let Inman and Solomon stay at his house--and Inman completes the transaction by giving Junior a valuable saw he's obtained during his travels. While Veasey selfishly wants to profit from the exchange by bringing paper money into the matter, Inman "correctly" allows Junior to keep the saw without any further payment--they're "square."

In the absence of reliable currency or a reliable system of government, the rules of bartering and trade were of vital importance to the United States (particularly in the South). Throughout the novel, Inman must trade his possessions for food and shelter, and this scene is no exception. Furthermore, notice that Inman's status as an honorable man--a worthy protagonist for the novel--is confirmed in the instant that he performs a fair transaction (the saw in exchange for shelter). By the same token, Solomon's status as a corrupt character is confirmed when he selfishly tries to make extra money from the trade. By and large, the "good" characters in the novel are those who abide by the rules of hospitality and quid pro quo.

Junior raised up his face and looked at him but seemed not to recognize him. Inman stepped to Junior and struck him across the ear with the barrel of the LeMat's and then clubbed at him with the butt until he lay flat on his back. There was no movement out of him but for the bright flow of blood which ran from his nose and cuts to his head and the corners of his eyes.

Related Characters: Inman , Junior
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Inman has been ambushed by the Home Guard, and it's revealed that they were in cahoots with Junior, the man who offered Inman a place to sleep at night. The Home Guard tries to kill Inman, but Inman manages to escape. To avenge his near-death, Inman returns to Junior's property and beats Junior over the head with his rifle, perhaps killing him.

Does Inman do the "right" thing here? Junior has violated the most basic code of Southern society at the time--the code of hospitality. There's an unwritten law that a host must offer lodgings to travelers in need, provided that the traveler can provide some kind of service or trade in exchange (Inman gave Junior a saw, sealing the transaction). By violating the terms of their deal (i.e., turning Inman over to the Home Guard) Junior proves himself to be a villain, below all contempt or sympathy.

Whether or not one agrees that Junior "deserves" his beating, it's important to note that Inman seems to be giving in to his desire for blood and violence. Long months of serving in the Civil War have left Inman deeply scarred and with a mind still full of violence--and he gives in to this violence when avenging Junior's crimes.

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 11 Quotes

—What is it you do in those books? Inman said.
—I make a record, the woman said. Draw pictures and write.
—About what?
—Everything. The goats. Plants. Weather. I keep track of what everything's up to. It can take up all your time just marking down what happens. Miss a day and you get behind and might never catch back up.
—How did you learn to write and read and draw? Inman asked.
—Same way you did. Somebody taught me.

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), The Old Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

In this strange scene, Inman is taken in by an old woman who spends all day taking care of goats. The woman is a hermit--she lives alone, and seemingly relishes her aloneness, spending all her time writing and drawing.

Frazier portrays the Old Woman with a mixture of admiration and subtle pity. The woman claims to be entirely self-sufficient, saying she doesn't really need human company at all. There is something both awe-inspiring and pathetic in the way that she spends all her time recording her experiences; one could say that the old woman is trapped in an "eternal present," living from day to day.

In short, the old woman represents the kind of life that Inman--still traumatized by his experiences in battle--is tempted to embrace. Perhaps it's possible to be happy on one's own, far from one's home and the troubles of human society. (It's worth noting that the old woman seems to be based on Calypso from Homer's Odyssey--i.e., the woman who tempted Odysseus to live in an "eternal present" and abandon his quest to return home.) And yet Frazier subtly implies that the kind of lifestyle the old woman celebrates--the life of a hermit--is never entirely possible. "Somebody" taught the old woman how to read, and she seems to need the occasional company of travelers like Inman; in other words, true self-sufficiency is just a pipe dream.

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 13 Quotes

—If I was to ask you to do something, would you do it?
Inman considered that he should frame an answer here on the order of Maybe, or If I can, or some like provisional phrase.
What he said was, Yes.
—If I was to ask you to come over here and lay in bed with me but not do a thing else, could you do it?
Inman looked at her there and wondered what she saw looking back. Some dread shape filling the clothes of her husband?

Related Characters: Inman (speaker), Sara (speaker)
Page Number: 243
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Inman finds shelter in the home of a young woman named Sara. Sara has a child, but her husband--the father of the child--has been killed in the Civil War. Sara is clearly lonely and attracted to Inman, but she's also still loyal to her husband and his memory. So Sara asks Inman to lie next to her in bed. As Inman correctly guesses, Sara is trying to use Inman to "channel" a sense of her own deceased husband, whom she still loves.

It's important to notice that Inman is reluctant to play the part of a dead man--and yet he agrees to help Sara without any protest ("Yes"). When confronted with another person's trauma and grief, Inman--who has plenty of trauma and grief of his own--immediately tries to help. In general, the passage evokes the (possibly futile) ways that humans try to cope with their own sadness. Sara's request to Inman might seem bizarre, but it's the best way for her to regain some contact with a man she continues to love.

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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