Cold Mountain

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Cold Mountain, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

It’s both correct and incorrect to describe Cold Mountain as a “Civil War novel.” The book is set in the United States during the mid-1860s, when the Civil War between the Northern and the Southern states was still underway. (See Background Info for more on this topic.) And yet the Civil War itself—the bloodshed, the political battle to secede from the Union, the military strategies—is almost entirely absent from this book (when there’s a battle…

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One of the greatest tragedies of the Civil War was that it tore entire communities apart. The men who were old enough to serve in battle left their families behind, while the women were faced with the unenviable task of surviving by themselves in lonely, empty households. The two protagonists of Cold Mountain, Ada Monroe and Inman, face many different kinds of isolation. In general, it’s fair to say that the novel is…

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In interviews, Charles Frazier has acknowledged Cold Mountain’s debt to Homer’s Odyssey, one of the foundational works of Western literature (see Background Info for more on this work). Unsurprisingly, Frazier’s novel touches on one of the oldest themes in the Western canon (and the key theme of the Odyssey): the quest to return home. Inman, the novel’s main character, spends most of the book trying to walk back to his hometown…

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In addition to being a novel about war, trauma, and survival, Cold Mountain is also about the romance between its two main characters, Inman and Ada Monroe. Inman and Ada live in a time when it’s difficult, if not impossible, to speak openly about sex and sexuality. As a result, they’re both extremely sexually inexperienced, and more or less completely ignorant of the anatomy of the opposite sex. Keeping this in mind, it’s worth…

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Because Cold Mountain is a quest story like the Odyssey, its “episodes” keep coming back to the same scenario: a host offering hospitality to a weary traveler. Most of the time, the weary traveler is Inman, stopping for the night along the road back to Black Cove. But at other times, the traveler is passing by Ada Monroe and Ruby Thewes’s farm in Black Cove, and the situation is more or less…

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