Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 6 : Ashes of Roses | Summary

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Summary

As Ada and Ruby work in their winter garden, a wagon comes into their cove, the people having lost their way. The wagon is full of belongings, so three women and their children and an enslaved husband and wife are on foot. The women explain they are fleeing from Tennessee to South Carolina to get away from the Federals. Their husbands are at war, and they have been recently raided, their valuables stolen and their house burned down.

Ruby and Ada feed their guests and give them lodging in the hayloft as well as a big breakfast the next morning. Once the travelers are again on their way, Ruby and Ada go to check the apple orchard. They have a picnic lunch and linger on the blanket, talking and dozing. Their pleasant day continues into the night, as they read on the porch after dinner, and Ada tells Ruby of her last visit to Charleston.

The trip was made just before the war, and Ada attended many parties. On the final night, she found herself in a boat on the river with a wealthy young Savannah man named Blount. He told her how frightened he was of the war, and she comforted him before they returned to her cousin's house. Ada's big surprise that night was admiring a woman she saw in the mirror, only to realize it was her own reflection. She was sorry to learn some time after the war had begun that Blount was killed at Gettysburg.

Ruby is not impressed by the story and goes off to bed. But Ada feels especially introspective. She remembers similar nights with her father, Monroe, and she reflects on how much she has learned from living in the mountains.

Analysis

The mood of this chapter is one of general contentment. Just as Inman has been able to experience a bit of respite with the gypsies, Ada seems to be reaching equanimity with her situation. She and Ruby are successful in their efforts, as evidenced by the quantity of food they share with unexpected guests. Ruby is content with her lot and is eager to keep teaching Ada all the things she knows. Ada is very clear that not returning to Charleston has been a wonderful decision, and she even thinks about how "she could not see how she could improve her world" because it seems so fine, no longer the alien and lonely place it once was to her. As one of the visiting women points out, she is lucky to be in such a safe place.

The one moment of dissatisfaction comes with Ruby's blunt and critical assessment of Ada's story about Charleston. Ruby chooses to view it as proof of how spoiled and lazy city folk are, causing Ada to say, "you've missed my point." Ada, who has listened respectfully most of the day to Ruby's ideas about nature and signs, does not appreciate having her touching story dismissed so abruptly. Yet the growth of Ada's practical side, something she sorely needs, is apparent at the end of the chapter. Ruby sends her to put the cow in the barn, and Ada gets momentarily lost in the dreamy aspects of the night before reminding herself that many things in the cove need what she is "learning to do," and she rouses herself from reverie to attend to the chore at hand. Ada will continue to grow throughout the story, away from the "disoriented" state Ruby dislikes.

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