Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 14 : A Satisfied Mind | Summary

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Summary

It is autumn and Ada and Ruby harvest apples. The cider they make has hardened enough that Ruby is ready to trade it, and so she goes to trade for some fresh beef. While Ruby is gone, Ada splits wood and burns a big pile of brush, stopping between chores to begin writing a letter to her cousin Lucy in Charleston.

Ada then milks the cow and watches the night come on. As she awaits Ruby's return, Stobrod and his sidekick, Pangle, a mentally impaired young man who plays the banjo to Stobrod's fiddle music, arrive. As they sit around the fire, Stobrod tells about the young man and about the raid he and the other outliers were on when he discovered the banjo at a wealthy man's house. Pangle taught himself to play, and ever since then, Stobrod and Pangle have done little but drink, eat, sleep, and play music.

When Ruby arrives, she has only a small piece of beef brisket, but it makes a delicious meal for the four of them. While the meat cooks, Stobrod and Pangle play their instruments.

After dinner, Stobrod tells Ruby he needs her help. He is planning to leave the outliers; he and Pangle will need food, a place to sleep in bad weather, and perhaps some money from time to time. Ruby's response is to shame him for asking her for the very things he never gave her as a child. She puts the decision to Ada, but not before pointing out just how horrible a father Stobrod truly was. She tells of him leaving her to fend for herself for several months when she was younger than eight years old, while he tried to make liquor for profit. Ada does not answer definitively.

That night, Ada gazes at the stars. She finally answers Inman's letter with one sentence: "Come back to me is my request." It is a line from a song Stobrod sang that night.

Analysis

Despite Ruby's regular barbs to Ada regarding how far she is from mastering the lifestyle of farming in the mountains, Ada shows in this chapter just how capable she has become. More impressive, however, is her obvious enjoyment of the tasks. She even likes how her looks and mental focus have changed, as revealed in her letter to her cousin. The title of the chapter sums it up; she has "a satisfied mind." Ada's heart, however, is not satisfied. She longs for Inman and is finally able to admit how much she wishes for his return. She anticipates living in Black Cove until her death; Inman is all she is missing.

In contrast, Ruby's inner growth is not yet apparent. She is holding a grudge against her father, one few could fault her for. She cannot even be civil on this night and chooses to leave the others by the fire after her story of Stobrod's utter neglect and lack of kindness. The only positive thing she can say is, at least he never hit her.

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