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Cold Mountain | Chapter 13 : Bride Bed Full of Blood | Summary

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Summary

A long stretch of bad weather—including fog and cold rain—once again has Inman feeling disconsolate. Having used all of the goatwoman's medicines, he is in much better physical condition, but his thoughts are still bleak and his hunger is sharp. His senses remain keen, and one morning he rightly has the feeling someone is following him. He sees a man and threatens to shoot him, so the man makes peace and introduces himself as Potts. He directs Inman to the house of a woman who will feed him.

Inman arrives at the house and finds a young woman with a baby. She invites him in, declining his offer to pay for food, and prepares a meal for him that he eats ravenously. He learns her name is Sara and her man has been killed in the war. Inman sees how hard it will be for her to make it on her own and offers to help her kill and butcher her hog. She accepts the offer in trade for her cleaning and mending his clothes. She gives him a wash basin and her dead husband's clothes to wear, and she asks him to sleep beside her in bed without trying to have sex with her. Inman agrees and comforts her as best he can as she tells the sad story of her love for John, their plans for happiness, and the birth of their daughter who will never know her father.

Early the next morning, Sara urgently awakens Inman and warns him someone is coming. It is Federal raiders. Inman hides in the woods and watches as Sara tries to get the hog to run away into the woods. He hears the raiders breaking things in the house and then observes as they strip the baby and place her on the frozen ground in an attempt to get Sara to say where her valuables are hidden. When they realize she has nothing but animals, they take the hog and the chickens and leave.

Inman immediately follows the raiders after telling Sara how to prepare things for the hog killing; he is determined to get the hog back. Because there are three of them, he shoots one and then lies in wait for the other two, killing them as well. He retrieves the chickens and the hogs, sets the men's horses free, and then goes back to Sara. They slaughter the hog and get the meat and lard from it.

When the work is done, Sara and Inman eat, and he shaves his beard off for the first time in years. Then they sleep side-by-side again before Inman continues his journey the following morning.

Analysis

Inman's kindness and strong moral compass shine in this chapter, but his desensitization to violence is also apparent. He does what is right by Sara, acting as a gentleman around her at all times, even when her breast is exposed as she feeds the baby and when he is in bed with her. He sees she is young and lovely, and he is ashamed to be so smelly and dirty around her, so it is clear he is attracted to her, but he also shows her true compassion.

However, as Inman kills the raiders, he is cold-blooded and methodical. His actions show how little killing affects him anymore. He salutes the first one as he dies, and says to another one, "if you'd stayed home this would not have come to pass." He rolls a cigarette from their belongings and hums a religious song. By comparing these killings to what he did as a soldier, Inman shows he clearly knows how damaged he is by the war.

Inman could stay with Sara and have a life with her, and he knows it: "he saw with sorrow that hers was a life he could step right into." However, he does not falter in his mission to get home to Ada. On his second night with Sara, she sings to calm her baby, and the choice of the song, "Wayfaring Stranger," should not be lost on the reader. This is the song that stayed with Ada after she saw in the well the vision of a man walking through the woods toward her. Inman will never stop until he reaches her.

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