Cold Mountain

The Road Symbol Icon

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.

Get the entire Cold Mountain LitChart as a printable PDF.
Cold mountain.pdf.medium

The Road Symbol Timeline in Cold Mountain

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
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
...staring out of a window. He sees birds flying by, and wanderers walking down the road. (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
As he eats breakfast, Inman sees an old man walking down the road. He’s hunched over, and uses a cane to find his way. Inman walks outside the... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
...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
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
...at the bottom. She also sees a vision of a strange man, walking down a road. (full context)
Chapter 3: a color of despair
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Inman stands on the road, staring out into the distance. He’s been traveling for a few days, but he hasn’t... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Back in the present day, Inman walks along the road, noticing the tall trees and plants in the surrounding forest. He wonders to himself how... (full context)
Chapter 5: like any other thing, a gift
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...pistol. It’s a small Belgian model, not particularly powerful or deadly. Inman walks along a road, which takes him to a small town. As he walks through town, Inman smells fresh... (full context)
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
...carnival performers tell Inman about their time spent traveling the country. They claim that the road is its own country: it has its own laws and rules, but it also gives... (full context)
Chapter 7: exile and brute wandering
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Inman continues walking along the road. After a time, he crosses paths with none other than the priest he previously tied... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Romance, Sexuality, and Repression Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
Inman and Veasey continue walking down the road, Veasey rubbing his head where Inman struck him. They come to a large wooden building,... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...that Veasey has a long scratch on his eye. Together, they set off down the road. (full context)
Chapter 9: to live like a gamecock
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...arrive at a woodcutters’ clearing. There’s a huge tree lying in the middle of the road, and it’s clearly been cut with a sharp saw. Inman finds the saw resting by... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...a stream. The man cries out for help, and Inman and Veasey walk off the road to help him (Veasey leaves the saw by the side of the road). The man... (full context)
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
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...to Lila, with Junior hollering songs. Afterwards, the horsemen lead Inman and Veasey down the road, into the dark. (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
...but he feels little sympathy for his companion. Inman begins to walk back to the road. (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
...of walking, Inman comes to a “yellow” slave, who is herding some bulls down the road. The slave calls Inman a “dirt man,” but offers him a melon, which Inman eats... (full context)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
The next day, Inman is still walking along the road, away from Junior. He sees a flock of crows flying above him, and notices that... (full context)
Chapter 11: the doing of it
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The Quest to Return Home Theme Icon
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)
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...Eventually, he’s walking through an area where the only sign of human civilization is the road itself. One day, he comes to an old woman setting up a trap for animals.... (full context)
Chapter 13: bride bed full of blood
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
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...about a “bride bed full of blood.” The next day, Inman sets out on the road. (full context)
Chapter 16: naught and grief
Isolation, Survival, and Community Theme Icon
The trio comes to a fork in the road. They decide to rest there and eat and drink. They take swigs of whiskey they’ve... (full context)
Chapter 17: black bark in winter
War, Memory, and Trauma Theme Icon
Hospitality and Quid Pro Quo Theme Icon
...they’re surrounded by wild animals. The next day, they come to the fork in the road that the Georgia boy identified for them; there, they find Pangle’s body lying next to... (full context)