Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 7 : Exile and Brute Wandering | Summary

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Summary

Inman's feeling of being alone in the world returns as he continues his journey, meeting few people and communicating with none. He grows weary of his limited diet and, in an uncharacteristic act, he sneaks a picnic basket from a group of women who are doing their laundry along a riverbank—although he does leave money to pay for it. Shortly thereafter, he senses he is being followed; he soon learns the sinful preacher is behind him. The man, Solomon Veasey, thanks Inman for saving him from "mortal sin," but Inman is not at all happy to see him. Nevertheless, they travel together and find an abandoned house with beehives. Inman collects honey from the hives, and the two men share a feast. Later that day, they find a huge catfish trapped in shallow water and are able to eat again until they feel full. That night, Inman shares one of his terrible memories from the war—the man-to-man combat he engaged in at a collapsed tunnel near Petersburg.

The next day, the two men continue on together, but not without mishap. The weather is rainy, and Inman has to club Veasey in the head when he pulls a gun on a shopkeep. When they arrive at a lodge run by a man who will house deserters, Inman is glad to have some time away from Veasey. The preacher goes off with an African American prostitute by the name of Big Tildy, but not before Inman is forced to intervene with a man who threatens to kill Veasey because he also wants to sleep with the woman. Inman eats and then heads for the hayloft along with another lodger named Odell. The two of them drink well into the night, as Odell tells his life story.

Born into a wealthy planter family, Odell married another rich planter's daughter but was not happy with his situation. When he fell in love with a beautiful enslaved woman named Lucinda, his life changed forever. He describes himself as loving her "far past the point of lunacy." He defied his father's will in pursuing an affair with her. Finally, his father sold Lucinda to people in Mississippi, and Odell left home and his fortune to search for her, and is still seeking her. He tells Inman horrible stories about the abuse of slaves he has seen, including an enslaved woman locked in a cage and literally pecked to death by buzzards.

Inman leaves without Veasey in the morning, but the preacher soon catches up to him. Big Tildy has cut him with a razor for not paying her enough, but he says the evening with her was worth it.

Analysis

One of the most apparent things from this chapter is just how opposite Veasey and Inman are. Veasey is a charlatan, a fact that he admits to Inman at their first meeting, yet seems to take lightly, saying, "I now believe that when I took to preaching I answered a false call." He has also managed to avoid going to war, saying he has a doctor's excuse. Again, he takes it lightly, wondering "if [he] missed much" by not being a soldier. Inman's reply is to tell him the story of the Petersburg slaughter, ending with "there's the sort of thing you missed. ... You sorry?" In contrast to Veasey, Inman does not take any of his responsibilities lightly. He does what is expected of him, and he acts with honor at all times.

Veasey is also prone to crime. Robbery, murder, solicitation of a prostitute—nothing seems beyond him. Inman, in contrast, will not even take a picnic basket when starving without paying for it and will never touch a woman outside of a relationship, no matter how beautiful or vulnerable she might be. The killing he has seen and participated in haunts him. He only participates in violence if it is absolutely necessary, and is angered when he has to stop Veasey's threatened gun violence twice in one day. He ultimately takes Veasey's gun away from him, saying, "you're set on getting us both killed."

Finally, whereas Veasey is incompetent in the wilderness, Inman always knows what to do. He works both hard and smart to survive.

Odell, however, has things in common with Inman. Both men are trying to be reunited with their true loves, involved in quest-like journeys to accomplish it. Both are haunted by the miserable legacy of slavery—Odell by terrible scenes of violence he has witnessed, and Inman by the violence of a war caused by the issue of slavery.

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