Cold Mountain

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The Fiddle Symbol Analysis

The Fiddle Symbol Icon

Before we’re introduced to him, Stobrod Thewes is described as a lazy ne’er-do-well who can’t even take care of his own child, Ruby. But when we meet Stobrod, he’s turned over a new leaf. Stobrod’s desire to become a better man—more honest, harder working, etc.—is symbolized by his devotion to playing the fiddle. Stobrod uses his talent for music to provide joy and amusement to others, and devotes long hours to learning and perfecting his craft. In a novel about making big changes in life, Stobrod’s fiddle is a powerful reminder that it’s not too late to start again.

The Fiddle Quotes in Cold Mountain

The Cold Mountain quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Fiddle. 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 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.

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The Fiddle Symbol Timeline in Cold Mountain

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Fiddle appears in Cold Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 12: freewill savages
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...Ada asks Stobrod about his time in battle, but Stobrod says little. He produces a fiddle and plays it for his hosts’ entertainment. He tells Ruby the story of how he... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...be so interested in fiddling (Ruby points out that before the war he played the fiddle, but showed no great passion for it). In 1862, Stobrod was stationed in Richmond. There,... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...Ada and Ruby. Ruby is amazed that her father shows so much talent for the fiddle. She remembers how he got his nickname long ago—he stole a ham, and was beaten... (full context)
Chapter 16: naught and grief
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
...dismount and begin cooking their food over the fire—sausage. Teague orders Stobrod to play his fiddle. Stobrod and Pangle begin playing a tune, largely improvised. They’re shaky at first, but gradually... (full context)
Chapter 17: black bark in winter
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 19: the far side of trouble
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
...books about art, botany, and travel. Inman will learn Greek, and Stobrod will play the fiddle for them, assuming that he survives. Ada tells Inman about what their life would be... (full context)
Epilogue: October of 1874
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
...to love the stars, the trees, and the soil. In the evening, Stobrod plays the fiddle for Ada, Reid, Ruby, and all four children. As the night goes on, Ada reads... (full context)