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Cold Mountain | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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How does the music described in Chapter 9 of Cold Mountain fit the mood and action of the scenes?

When the Guards arrive as summoned by Junior to take Inman and Solomon Veasey, one of them plays a fiddle tune said to be "circular in logic" and suitable for "throwing a man into a daze." The guardsmen dance around the fire, following the same path the strange sons of one of Lila's sisters have walked on in a daze all afternoon. It is a strange and hazy scene, hedonistic in feeling and characterized by men dancing like gamecocks, which fits the title of the chapter, "To Live Like a Gamecock." Later in the chapter after the Guards shoot all the prisoners, music is again used in an eerie way to highlight the inappropriateness of the action. One of the guardsmen dances and sings "Cotton Eye Joe," a lively tune usually played at social gatherings.

When Inman beats Junior to death, what other violent event in Cold Mountain does it echo, and how does this connection match Inman's thoughts about what he has done?

When Inman looks at the results of his violent attack on Junior, he thinks it is "indeed a horrid thing," and he fears the idea that "all men share the same nature." He is referring here to the violence that bubbles below the surface and which, when unleashed, is a frightening phenomenon. The severity of the beating recalls the way Ayron beats the father of the prisoner to death in the story he tells in Chapter 8. This gratuitous violence does seem to substantiate Inman's thoughts. However, the difference between the two acts cannot be overlooked. Ayron has no cause to attack the man so viciously, but Inman avenges a terrible wrong committed by an immoral man.

What is the effect of Charles Frazier's choice to use dialogue dashes rather than traditional quotation marks in Cold Mountain?

Critics and readers are generally split on an author's decision to operate outside the usual rules of grammar and usage. Many famous authors beside Charles Frazier have created their own styles, including William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Cormac McCarthy. In doing so, these authors are usually motivated by the desire to create a specific feeling, with the idea it makes the world of the novel unique to it. Readers who like this approach might agree that it puts them in a particular time and space, more fully "at one" with the story. Certainly, Frazier establishes his approach of using dialogue dashes very early on. They appear in the first conversation Inman has, with the blind man in Chapter 1. Because the men's initial exchange is made up of short phrases and sentences and the speaker tag "Inman said" is used with the opening line of their conversation, it is not difficult to understand that an initial dash is used for dialogue in place of quotation marks. Readers who dislike the approach claim that using nontraditional forms has the opposite effect; it makes them think about how the story fits together. They claim this takes a reader out of the novel and therefore weakens the impact of the story.

Why is the story of Shining Rocks Inman tells Ada Monroe in Chapter 10 of Cold Mountain so much on his mind at the time he relates it?

Inman tells Ada Monroe the story of Shining Rocks as he is about to depart Cold Mountain to fight in the war. Like most men of the mountains, he does not feel a part of the issues that have led to the war, yet he must go. He knows his home might never be the same, so the words of the stranger who originally told the story to the old Cherokee woman resonate with him: "Here is constant fighting, sickness, foes wherever you turn. And soon a stronger enemy than you have yet faced will come and take your country away from you."

In Cold Mountain, when Ada Monroe visits Inman before he leaves for war, what is the significance of the gesture he makes that recalls his last action as a schoolboy?

Inman and Ada Monroe experience quite a bit of awkwardness both times they try to say goodbye to each other. When Ada visits Inman unexpectedly the second morning, he is shocked to see her and closes the door to hurriedly dress more appropriately. Then he opens the door and comes out, but leaves it open: "Ada guessed he wished he'd closed it but could not now decide which was worse, the awkwardness of taking the two strides to do it, or the sharp intimacy suggested by the yawning doorway and the narrow bedstead." However, as they talk and she touches him, he takes charge of the situation. He is determined to kiss her properly this time and so he takes off his hat and sails it into his room in an action reminiscent of his last day as a school lad, when he flipped his hat right out of the schoolhouse. The action symbolizes freedom from restrictions, and this is what Inman feels as he takes Ada into his arms.

What is surprising about what Inman reveals to the goatwoman as he talks about the war in Chapter 11 of Cold Mountain?

Most readers are surprised to learn that Inman had some amount of zeal as he was leaving for the war. Because Inman's and Ada Monroe's memories of the days leading up to the war show him as quite reserved, any sort of excitement on his part is difficult to see. In addition, Inman has become so jaded by his experiences that it is hard to understand he "had not been immune" to feelings of war frenzy. In explaining those feelings, he describes how easy it is to get caught up in the excuse of being committed to the war effort when all many men really are drawn to is an end of "boredom with the repetition of the daily rounds." However, soon enough, the war takes a toll and soldiers want to return to what they might have wished to escape: home.

What ideas do Inman and the goatwoman share in Chapter 11 of Cold Mountain about the title "Pathway to the More Abundant Life" in one of her tracts?

Inman and the goatwoman agree that many people endlessly seek abundance in life, although people are not usually able to say exactly what this means or how to find it. The goatwoman comments on the idea it is a silly title in a pamphlet about eating bread and vegetables and giving up meat. Inman and the goatwoman also both agree that what people should get used to is scarcity, not abundance. Inman reflects on the idea that there is abundance of one kind in the world—an abundance of hardship. However, neither he nor the goatwoman seem put off by the reality of the world as it is. One might even observe that the goatwoman has an abundance of the things she needs and wants.

When Ruby Thewes's father first reenters her life in Chapter 12 of Cold Mountain, what do her observations of him and initial comments to him foretell about their relationship?

When Ruby Thewes first looks Stobrod Thewes over, she notices how much he has aged and how thin he is. Although the description is not overly sympathetic, her perception of these details indicates she cares about him and might have some pity for him. However, her comments to him show that she will not be fooled by him; if they are to have any sort of relationship, it will certainly not be based on trust. She advises Ada Monroe, "alive or dead, he's of little matter to me," yet as she says these words, she is making him some breakfast. This initial interaction shows she will put up with her father and help him, but it will only be on her terms. She needs to feel in charge of their relationship, probably to avoid being hurt or surprised by him.

How does Stobrod Thewes's encounter with the timber rattler in Chapter 12 of Cold Mountain compare with Inman's encounter with the mother bear in Chapter 15?

Both Stobrod Thewes and Inman have respect for the creatures they encounter, having inner guidance about the importance of the bear and the snake—dreams in the case of Inman, and a quest image for Stobrod. However, Inman does not pursue a bear in the way Stobrod pursues a snake. Both men speak to the animals to explain their actions, somehow believing the animals will hear and respect their words. However, what Stobrod desires from the snake is something that will harm the animal, whereas what Inman asks from the bear is simply the ability to pass peacefully. In the end, both men get something from the animals that really helps them. Inman gets the bear cub's meat, and Stobrod gets the rattles that make his fiddle complete. Both are, to a small degree, saved by their animal encounters.

In what ways is it accurate or inaccurate to say music changes Stobrod Thewes's life in Cold Mountain?

Based on Stobrod Thewes's own description of the way music has shifted his feelings and approach to the world, it does seem music changes his life. Ada Monroe, even though she has never met him before, believes music has given Stobrod a "path to redemption." By his own account, Stobrod is astonished at the lessons he has learned. He says he learns "things about himself that had never sifted into his thinking before" and "there is a right way for things to be ordered so that life might not always be just tangle and drift but have a shape, an aim." For a man who has always easily been described as a shiftless drifter, this is a big change indeed.

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