Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 16 : Naught and Grief | Summary

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Summary

Stobrod and Pangle have left the outliers in the cave to go to a different hiding place to live, near Shining Rocks. There is a third companion with them. He is identified at this point only as "a Georgia boy of no more than seventeen years." The three of them are ill with digestive issues, having eaten a deer dead too long and cooked too little. The weather is very cold, and the men are unsure where they are.

Ruby and Ada have decided to provide provisions for the men by hiding them at a certain spot on Cold Mountain. Ruby has told Stobrod they must not come to the farm. The men have found the first supply, and they pause to cook a meal and warm themselves with a fire and some liquor before continuing to some higher spot that might be safer for them to hide. Still suffering from diarrhea, the Georgia boy goes off into the woods as Stobrod nods off while talking to Pangle.

Teague and his band of Home Guard appear. Teague demands information about the location of the cave where the robbing outliers are living. Although Stobrod dodges the question, Pangle innocently gives exact directions to the site. Then Teague and his men join Stobrod and Pangle around the fire to eat, drink, and get warm. After a while, Teague commands the two outliers to play some music. Stobrod and Pangle play in their usual inventive way, leading Birch to declare them "holy men." Teague's response is to have the Guard shoot the two men as they stand, holding their instruments in front of them.

Analysis

By now readers know that when Teague—the main antagonist in the novel—shows up, things are not going to end well. This chapter is no exception. Teague's sadism is on full display as he eats, drinks, and converses with Stobrod and Pangle "as if they were all fellowmen" before demanding music from them and then shooting them in cold blood. It is possible the two men's music moves him as it does most people, including Birch, and he must deny any softness of heart by killing the source of it. This interpretation is supported by the fact he cannot stand the innocent smile on Pangle's face and forces him to cover his face with his hat during the execution. However, Teague routinely kills those he hunts down, so any other view of what happens here is perhaps unnecessary. Teague is a true bully; he lacks the courage to go to war and is doing his "soldierly duty" by killing unarmed victims.

Stobrod's essence is clearly seen in this chapter as well. He functions as the leader of his little band of three, but he has no leadership qualities. He cannot figure out where they are because he has always been drunk when wandering in the mountains. He makes decisions with no thought for the long term. He feels proud of shallow things such as having good liquor and winning at gambling. Only when he plays music does he shine.

Finally, Pangle's childlike innocence is on display throughout the chapter. He only wants to please everyone; he has no filters to stop him from sharing what he knows. He seeks physical comfort and finds happiness in simple things such as warmth, food, companionship, and music.

Readers should note the that the Georgia boy is not in the scene. He left before Teague and his men arrived. His role in the story is far from over.

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