One of the key symbols in the novel is the road that Inman follows from the hospital all the way back to his childhood home in Black Cove. Often, the road takes Inman to unfamiliar places, where the only signs of human civilization are Inman and the road itself. What the ocean is to the Odyssey, the road is to Cold Mountain: a constant reminder of the protagonist’s devotion to his quest, his desire to return home, and the very human act of constantly traveling onward to new things.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Road appears in Cold Mountain. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: the shadow of a crow
...enormous pain but doing no serious damage. Inman and his fellow soldiers ran to a road, where they found themselves under fire from the “Federals” (i.e., the Union soldiers). Inman and... (full context)
Chapter 2: the ground beneath her hands
Chapter 3: a color of despair
Chapter 5: like any other thing, a gift
Chapter 7: exile and brute wandering
Chapter 9: to live like a gamecock
Chapter 11: the doing of it
Inman follows the slave’s directions toward the Blue Ridge mountains. He takes safe roads and sleeps under the stars, often having the same nightmare about Fredericksburg. Inman wakes up... (full context)
Chapter 13: bride bed full of blood
Chapter 16: naught and grief
Chapter 17: black bark in winter