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Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


As Chapter 7 of Cold Mountain opens, what mood is established by the unusual responses of people to Inman?

During the stretch of days described in the opening pages of Chapter 7, Inman experiences fine weather and finds comfortable places to sleep. However, the mood is one of loneliness and the feeling that he has lost his drive, even his unerring sense of direction. The feeling of urgency that has characterized his journey is no longer present. Inman does not see many people on these days. When he does encounter people, they are strangely silent, even when he asks them for directions or greets them. It's as if he is walking through a dream in which everything is muffled and he is unable to make contact. Then when a crow dies in flight and falls on the road in front of him, things feel even more surreal. This all helps to explain the first real action of the chapter, an unusual decision by Inman to take a basket of food. The feeling of loneliness also helps to explain why Inman allows Solomon Veasey to travel along with him at all when the preacher appears behind him on the road.

How is Solomon Veasey presented as a foil, or opposite, to Inman when he reappears during Inman's journey in Chapter 7 of Cold Mountain?

Solomon Veasey is an opposite of Inman in many ways. Inman is quiet and introspective, whereas Veasey talks endlessly and without giving much thought to his words. Inman, although desensitized to violence by his war experiences, will never resort to it unless he is forced to protect himself or others. Veasey, in contrast, likes to flash his newly acquired gun around and threaten violence, similar to the way a bully acts. Inman chooses to act in moral ways, whereas Veasey feels free to sate his desires in any way he chooses, despite his supposed religious beliefs. For example, Inman leaves money for the basket of food he takes, whereas Veasey is willing to rob a shopkeep. Veasey has very loose sexual mores, whereas Inman resists all such temptations. Finally a significant difference between the two men is that Veasey is unable to survive in nature, lacking the skills and knowledge Inman possesses.

In what ways does Charles Frazier give his novel a universality by including Odell's story in Chapter 7 of Cold Mountain?

Although Cold Mountain is a war novel, Charles Frazier does not want it to be viewed as the story of one man's experiences in war. He is interested in the universal ideas of love, the importance of independent choice, and the idea that people are all pilgrims on a journey through life. Odell's story opens up the scope of the novel beyond Inman's journey and suffering and Ada Monroe's growth in her small part of the world to remind readers oppression and cruelty, unrequited love, and the search for happiness cut across time and space. The human experience is endlessly complex and fascinating because all people share in it.

In Cold Mountain, when Solomon Veasey describes his feelings upon seeing Big Tildy naked in Chapter 7, what similar description by Inman is brought to mind from a previous chapter?

When Solomon Veasey sees Big Tildy's body in Chapter 7, he finds it amazing. He says, "it was a sight to mark down for remembrance in old age, one to cheer a mind otherwise falling to despond." Although Big Tildy is a prostitute who makes her living with her body, and Veasey is willing to pay to see it—something Inman will not do—Veasey's reflections about the impact of the sight are similar to Inman's much more innocent viewing of a woman. This occurs in Chapter 5 when Inman watches a beautiful, dark-haired gypsy woman cross a stream on horseback, a scene depicted with some sexual overtones. As the narrator describes Inman's response, "it was to Inman a stirring sight, a happy vision that he was grateful to have been granted." Later, he "could not take his eyes off" this same woman and "could attend to little but how beautiful the woman looked in the firelight." Both men are obviously smitten by the beauty of women before them, and their moods are lifted by the sight. The difference is that Inman takes no further action, and the image ultimately only brings to mind his beloved Ada Monroe.

How does Ruby Thewes's respect for crows as described in Chapter 8 of Cold Mountain reflect what the black crow image in Chapter 1 symbolizes for Inman?

The title of Chapter 1, "The Shadow of a Crow," refers to a scene from Inman's childhood. In it, Inman tosses his hat out of the school window during a boring lecture, where it creates a shadow like a crow's. When the teacher commands Inman to retrieve the hat, Inman chooses to pick it up and keep walking, never to return to the school. So, the crow image represents his independence in this memory. Ruby Thewes admires crows for "their outlook on life." Bearing in mind that Ruby is an extremely independent, self-sufficient character, readers should understand these are the traits she respects in others, including animals. As she describes crows, she focuses on their independent and practical nature. For Ruby as for Inman, crows represent independence and freedom from restrictions.

What is significant about Charles Frazier's choice to have the prisoner's story in Chapter 8 of Cold Mountain provide so many details about Teague and his men?

Readers have met Teague and his men early in the novel, in Chapter 2 when Esco Swanger tells about what the Guard does to the Owens family. However, the prisoner's story in Chapter 8 about the brutality of the Guard toward his friends and father is much more graphic. It shows just how brutal the Guard can be and indicates that they kill for pleasure. Teague would have killed the prisoner as well, except for Birch's warning that "it'd look better if we brought somebody in now and then." These early warnings of Teague's sadism as he is set up as the true antagonist of the story are important, because readers will be suitably alarmed when Inman encounters him. The fact that Teague's territory encompasses Cold Mountain also foreshadows the fact that arriving home will not guarantee Inman's safety.

How do Ada Monroe's observations of the blue heron in Chapter 8 of Cold Mountain compare to how people meeting Inman on his journey might describe him?

The blue heron Ada Monroe so closely observes is as self-contained as Inman, confident as well as cautious when people are around. Just as Inman looks directly at people and carefully studies situations, the heron seems to be assessing Ada. The blue heron is "a solitary pilgrim," just as Inman is on his walk. When the heron unfolds itself to fly away, Ada is struck by its size, complexity, and beauty. During his walk, as he works through the damage done to him by the war, Inman can be seen unfolding in a similar way. His strength, complexity, and beauty are apparent. When Ada wonders if the blue heron is a blessing, a warning, or a visit from the spirit world, the answer is probably that it is all three.

How do Ada Monroe's changing moods in Chapter 8 of Cold Mountain mirror her changes throughout the novel?

As Chapter 8 opens, Ada Monroe is almost childlike in her petulance about working so hard and being so determined to have a day of fun. She wishes to escape the farm, which is how she was living when the novel began. Just as Ruby Thewes is the person who moves Ada out of this phase, on their walk to town Ruby is the one who begins to shift her focus away from herself. Once in town, the more balanced Ada emerges, as she shops with Ruby both for the practical things they need and the things that matter so much to Ada: books, art supplies, newspapers. Then when the two visit Mrs. McKennet and Ada reacts so negatively to her story, readers are reminded just how far Ada has grown away from her fancy Charleston life. Finally, by the time Ada and Ruby are on their way home, Ada's mood reflects her more fully evolved persona, a woman in touch with the natural world around her, proud of her upbringing but happy to let it remain in her past, and as sharp-minded as ever.

How do the guns various men in Cold Mountain carry match each one's personality?

Inman carries a gun as notable and unique as he is. It is a LeMat, described as "the fiercest sidearm in existence." The gun makes the bearer feel secure, providing a "certain amount of serenity" because of its capabilities, which are emotions the people Inman saves along the way surely feel toward him. Solomon Veasey, Inman's foil, steals a gun and, like most things in his life, is a dishonest representation of the man himself. It is a more traditional Colt, an army-issued revolver, which furthers the sham of his having it because Veasey does not serve in the war. Inman takes the gun away from him because Veasey tends to brandish it about and get them into trouble, saying about Veasey's weaponless status, "the world [is] a better place for it." Teague's preferred weapon is a Spencer carbine. This was a firearm used by soldiers in the Civil War, so it suits Teague's desire to be admired for his war efforts even though he does not fight as a soldier. He carries it in a scabbard along his leg so he can hide it when he is on horseback. Then when he raises it to shoot, it will fire seven times before reloading, which suits his sadistic delight in firing repeatedly to prove his might. Junior's gun is as twisted as he is. It is a regular 10-gauge shotgun that has been modified to cause more damage when fired. The barrel of the gun is sawed off to spray the ammunition over a wider area. But the cut was not made cleanly, and the gun looks nasty and warped, just as Junior and his other belongings do.

In Chapter 9 of Cold Mountain, how does the description of Junior's house and its surroundings fit the owner's lifestyle?

From the first glimpse of Junior's house, readers see his willingness to accept unsavory things and perpetuate them. The house is in a state of disrepair. Gamecocks are housed all around it in equally shabby structures. Inside, the house stinks and has a crazy tilt to it caused by a broken foundation. Just like its owner, the house lacks any sort of solid underpinnings, and the room at the center is filled with hazy smoke and a dirty bed. Junior obviously does nothing to take care of the house or its occupants, and an evil feeling emanates from everything associated with him and his property. It is no accident that a dead bull is poisoning his source of water; his homestead is not a place where cleanliness comes easily.

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