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Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 20 : Spirits of Crows, Dancing | Summary



After a third day and night in the Cherokee village, Inman and Ada have decided on a plan for the immediate future. Inman will go north to surrender to the Federals and wait safely there until the war is over. Ada, Ruby, and Stobrod will return to Black Cove.

On the fifth day, the snow is mostly melted and Stobrod is well enough to travel. Inman insists on a change to the plan. He sends the women ahead and takes Stobrod with him, having Stobrod ride the horse. Inman will remain in the woods outside of Black Cove until dark. Then the next morning he will begin his walk northward.

So the women set off on foot, and after a while the men follow. They pass by Pangle's grave and walk several miles further. Then they hear a noise behind them and turn to see Teague and his men. Inman takes action quickly, spooking the horse to run away with Stobrod and immediately shooting a dog and one of the Guards. All of the horses then become spooked and, in the chaos, Inman runs at the men, shooting to kill them all and save his own life. As things settle, only one rider is left to face Inman. He is very young, but he refuses to surrender to Inman. So the two begin jockeying for position, Inman on foot and the boy on horseback. When the boy is bucked from his horse, Inman has a clear shot at him but does not take it, telling the boy to drop his pistol. At that moment, the boy fires and shoots Inman.

Ada hears the shots, and turns to run toward them. She meets Stobrod on the horse and keeps going until she finds Inman. The boy who shot him has left. Inman is still alive and she sits down and cradles his head in her lap until he dies.


Until the final moment of his life, Inman continues to act with honor. He puts the safety of others before his own, and he refuses to kill unless it is necessary to survive. However, his final decision not to kill results in his own death. The boy who shoots him has lost any spark of humanity, with "blue eyes [as] empty as a round of ice frozen on a bucket top." This boy is the person Inman has feared he would become.

The description of Inman's death in Ada's arms does not dwell on sadness. Charles Frazier chooses to paint the scene as if death were not a part of it, as viewed from above: "A pair of lovers. ... Both touching each other with great intimacy. A scene of such quiet and peace that the observer on the ridge could avouch to it later." It is an end Inman and Ada deserve.

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