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Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 10 : In Place of the Truth | Summary



One fall morning, Ruby, Ada, and Ruby's horse, Ralph, are working hard building a new fence around the pasture. Soon they stop and go back to the barn to prepare Ruby and Ralph for her trading trip to the Swangers. Ruby spies an old animal trap hanging in the barn and decides they should use it to try to catch whatever has been stealing corn from their corncrib. The women clean the trap and set it. At Ada's request, Ruby wraps the teeth with a tarp, in case it is a human stealing the corn.

As Ruby leaves, she instructs Ada to make a scarecrow for the winter garden, which crows have been picking at. Ada is pleased to be given this task and decides to make the scarecrow out of a beautiful old lavender dress of hers and an equally pleasing but frayed French straw hat. She is quite pleased with the result and memorializes the scarecrow by sketching it in her journal.

Ruby returns with the cabbages she has received from Esco in trade for their apples, and she hands Ada a letter. Ada knows it is from Inman but delays reading it until the afternoon. Even after reading it a number of times, she is unsure what to make of it. It is the letter Inman wrote in Chapter 1, advising her of his return and of his brokenness from his war experiences.

Ruby and Ada pass the rest of the day pleasantly, engaged in a hair contest. Each woman creates an elaborate hairdo for the other. Ruby decides Ada has created the best style, declaring it "perfect." As the loser, Ruby must do the night chores, so Ada returns to Inman's letter. In it, he makes a reference to a portrait he had made of himself as he left for war, saying, "I currently bear it no resemblance in either form or spirit." This spurs Ada to look closely at the image, which, in turn, stirs up memories of their last moment together before he left.

They had walked around the farm and talked, and Inman had told Ada the story about Shining Rocks, narrated to him by an old Cherokee woman when he was a child. According to the legend, an outlander came to the village of Kanuga, claiming to be from a village hidden behind the Shining Rocks on Cold Mountain. He describes it as an ideal place, characterized by peace, and invites the people to come live there, too, if they can fast together in their village town house for seven days. The people decide to accept the challenge, and all but one follow the rules and stay together throughout the fast. The one man's disobedience costs them all the chance to join the Shining Rocks community, however. When they return to Kanuga, their land is taken from them and they must live in exile.

Ada offers what might be taken as a glib response to the story, and the two lovers have a difficult time saying goodbye. After a restless night, Ada determines she must see Inman again, and she has Monroe drive her to town in the carriage to "go shopping." After quickly buying a few items, she goes to Inman's room to apologize to him for such an unsatisfying way of saying farewell. He is surprised and a bit stiff, but in the end they have a sweet, final goodbye that includes a kiss. Little do they know they will not be separated for a few months but for years.


Crows once again figure prominently in the beginning of this chapter. The crows picking at the winter garden have been fascinating Ada for weeks. She has even named the noisiest one of them Notchwing, for the square notches on each wing where feathers are missing. As she reflects on her sense of delight at offering a challenge to Notchwing, she thinks, "I am living a life now where I keep account of the doings of particular birds." However, this is not a sad fact for her. Rather, it reveals how well she is adapting to her new life and sharing Ruby's fascination with the natural world. Ruby's mastery in this area has just been revealed again, as she gives Ralph "a companionable able breath" to calm him down and keep him working to drag the heavy posts to the place where they are building the fence.

Before Ada chooses to use her own clothes to make the scarecrow, she plans to dress it in Monroe's clothes. When she ultimately decides she cannot daily look at "the effigy of Monroe standing in the field," it proves she has not yet overcome her grief. However, by choosing the dress she does—the very same dress she wore on the evening with Blount in Charleston—she also proves she is done with her old life.

One thing Ada will never lose, however, is her artistry. It is revealed in her construction of the scarecrow, which she has holding a bucket filled with lovely wild flowers. It shows in her beautifully illustrated journal and in the exquisite hairstyle she creates for Ruby. Although she is now a hardworking, rural farm owner, her sense of refinement remains intact. It shows as well in her acute awareness of her words and the impact they have on Inman and in her need to set things right with him before he leaves.

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