Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Chapter 9 : To Live Like a Gamecock | Summary

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Summary

The contrast established between Inman and Veasey is clear again at the beginning of the chapter. The men come upon a large saw that Veasey takes, even though Inman believes it has not been left there accidentally but just for a brief time while those using it take a break. Then when they come upon a man trying to figure out how to get a dead bull out of a stream, Veasey contrives a plan that Inman knows won't work, proving again the differences in their intellect and sense of practicality.

Once Inman and the stranger do manage to remove the bull by sawing it into pieces, the man invites the two travelers for dinner and lodging. Inman accepts, given that the man takes the saw in trade. They all stop on the way to the man's house to drink liquor he has hidden in a tree trunk, and the man—named Junior—tells stories intended to impress Inman and Veasey with his manhood. He tells them he has a wife and her two sisters and some children living with him, but the way he talks about it all shows how debauched he is.

When they arrive at Junior's house, the men continue drinking and Junior continues to reveal his sordid lifestyle. Veasey soon passes out from drinking. Junior's wife, Lila, and her sisters prove to be as sexually debased as Junior. While Junior goes off to supposedly check on a horse, they give Inman some sort of powerful drink and expose themselves to him, talking in promiscuous ways. Sensing something is horribly wrong, Inman hides his backpack before going in to eat a very unpalatable meal featuring a strange kind of meat.

Lila is finally so direct as to undress and pull Inman forcefully to her as she lies on the kitchen table. At that moment Junior enters the kitchen and threatens to shoot Inman, but decides, instead, that he will force Inman to marry Lila. Inman is nearly paralyzed by whatever the sisters have given him to drink. Then Junior reveals he has brought the Home Guard to arrest Inman and Veasey. Junior then forces Veasey to "marry" Inman and Lila. Inman and Veasey are then tied up with other prisoners and marched away.

The prisoners march for several days, receiving no food or drink from their vicious captors. They all grow weak, even Inman. One member of the Guard finally announces they have decided to shoot all the prisoners. The shot Inman receives enters at the side of his hairline and exits behind his ear. It is not fatal, but the shooters do not realize it. They bury him in a shallow grave along with the other prisoners.

When wild pigs come to feed on the corpses, Inman digs his way out of the grave and begins walking westward once again. He does not get far before he must rest, passing in and out of consciousness. A kind, yellow slave finds him, gives him a watermelon to eat, and then hides him among the things he carries on a sled to take him safely to the hayloft at the farm where he lives so that he and the other enslaved people there can nurse him back to health.

When Inman is able to walk again, the slave draws him a detailed map of a course that will keep him away from the Home Guard. However, Inman's first route is back to Junior's house, where he finds his backpack in the place he had hidden it and then beats Junior to death with his gun. As he rests the next day in the woods, Inman watches crows in a tree above him and dreams of living "in a kind of world where if a man wished it he could think himself into crow form ... [with the] power either to fly from enemies or laugh them away."

Analysis

Junior is a truly despicable character, living a life almost too horrible to comprehend. The ritual of wedding Lila to deserters Junior brings to the house has obviously been done before. He must regularly find outliers, have the sisters make sexual advances to them, and then turn the men over to the Home Guard. The immorality of it all enrages and appalls Inman to the point that he must seek revenge and put a stop to the activities the only way he can. Yet after he kills Junior, Inman's emotional scarring and loss of faith in humankind is made clear: "Inman feared that the minds of all men share the same nature with little true variance."

Similarly, the desensitized Inman is unable to grieve the death of fellow traveler, Solomon Veasey, even a little: "[Inman] had grown so used to seeing death, walking among the dead, sleeping among them, numbering himself calmly as among the near-dead, that ... he might never make a civilian again."

Despite the horror and depressing actions of the chapter, readers must yet notice Inman is still acting as a moral man. He does roll Veasey over so he is face down. He wishes he could pay the slave who saves his life. And in the chapter ending, as the now familiar symbol of birds appears again, Inman longs for the freedom they represent and the ability to deal with enemies without resorting to the sort of violence he has just engaged in.

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