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Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In Cold Mountain, after Inman kills the Philadelphia raiders who attack Sara, why does he think about the killing he did in the war but not his murder of Junior?

When Inman returns to Junior's house to kill him, he is acting out of revenge. It has nothing to do with the war and everything to do with taking the law into his own hands. When Inman kills as a soldier, he is doing what is expected of him. In a way, the killing of the Philadelphia raiders is a continuation of his war duties, even though he has deserted. They have threatened a woman and her baby on Confederate soil and taken what is not rightfully theirs. Although Inman thinks "this might be a story he would never tell," in his mind he is linking it to the battles he has fought.

What do all of the references to mirrors in Cold Mountain share?

Whenever mirrors are part of the narrative, attendant to the references is the idea people are or might be surprised by what they see. For example: The first mirror surprise is in Chapter 2, when Ada Monroe bends backward over the well while looking in a mirror to try to see her future. She is surprised to see an image of a man walking in the woods. Ada is also surprised by the image she sees in a mirror during the evening she spends with Blount in Charleston. This time, she is surprised by her own reflection, by her positive response to the woman she sees but does not immediately recognize as herself. When Ada and Ruby Thewes have their hair-dressing contest, Ruby seems surprised by the image of the back of her head. She has never seen it before. When Inman is with the goatwoman, he notices that there is not a mirror anywhere in her home. He thinks about how she might be surprised to see how she looks as an old woman. Inman himself is surprised to see how he has changed when he looks at his reflection while shaving in Sara's cabin.

What evidence is there that Pangle, the mentally challenged character in Cold Mountain, understands more than people give him credit for?

On the evening Stobrod Thewes shows up at Black Cove with Pangle, the young man described as "simpleminded," Pangle makes pithy remarks that summarize complex feelings very well. After he and Stobrod play their music, he remarks to Ada Monroe, "he's done you some good there." The remark is extremely appropriate because Ada has been transported away from cares, from war, from anything but the haunting melodies. Later that evening, after Ruby Thewes tries to explain to Ada why she feels no duty toward her father and then walks away from their gathering, Pangle remarks, "she's got her drawers in a wad now." Again, this is a very good summary of the tension stemming from the conversation. Pangle also has a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the wilderness around Cold Mountain. He never gets lost on the mountain and is able to articulate directions to particular places, as he does to Teague's men who are looking for the cave full of outliers.

What is significant about the fact that as Inman gets closer to home in Chapter 15 of Cold Mountain, he often sleeps in "the haunts of birds"?

In Chapter 15 of Cold Mountain, after Inman leaves the woman whose daughter he helps bury, he must walk through several days of rain. He sleeps in a pigeonnier, under a dovecote, and in a chicken house in the days leading up to his first good view of his homeland. Because birds are symbolic throughout the book, these details are important. It is as if Inman feels freer and freer as he gets closer to home. Even though his situation is uncomfortable, his spirits are raised with every step as he senses the land he loves. This is confirmed by the passage in Bartram that he reads the night in the chicken coop, describing "this magnificent landscape."

What possible explanation is there for Teague acting friendly with Stobrod Thewes and Pangle in Chapter 16 of Cold Mountain before having them shot?

One way to read this section of text is with the belief that Teague did not plan to kill the two men. Because Pangle tells him how to get to the cave where the outliers live, there is a fire with food and liquor, and Teague and his Guard are no doubt weary, he might plan just to enjoy some time relaxing before moving on. What changes his mind is the fact that the music Stobrod Thewes and Pangle play moves him deeply, and he is not a man who likes to feel emotional. He snaps back to his sadism and need to feel important and powerful when he hears Birch's comment, "their mind turns on matters kept secret from the likes of you and me." Another way to read this part of the novel is with the knowledge that Teague is always cruel and sadistic. This is no exception; he delights in being in total control of a situation and prefers to keep people guessing as to their fate. He might appear to be having a relaxing time with other men, but it is just part of his cruel intentions.

What is the effect of Charles Frazier's change in style at the beginning of Chapter 17 of Cold Mountain, and why is the change appropriate at this particular point?

Readers have gotten used to the narrative style that involves the story being told by the alternating perspectives of the two main characters, Inman and Ada Monroe. So, although it is not clear that either of them is narrating Chapter 16, it is still surprising when Reid, the boy from Georgia, is narrating at the beginning of Chapter 17 and that this chapter continues the story begun in the previous chapter. This switch in style is appropriate because the stories of Inman and Ada are about to become intertwined into one story in which they are both present in time and space. Chapter 18 is where the two find each other once again.

In Cold Mountain, what is fitting about Ruby and Ada wearing Monroe's clothes to bury Stobrod and Pangle, even though Ada was unable to use them for making a scarecrow?

When Ada Monroe is making a scarecrow, she decides not to use Monroe's clothes because the figure "would loom larger and more troubling in her mind than it would in the crows'." She does not want to feel like her father is watching her all the time, as she is just getting used to being an independent woman on her own. At the same time, she misses her father dearly and does not want a constant reminder of him. However, when Ruby Thewes and Ada need warm clothes to travel up Cold Mountain during snowy weather to perform the sad duty of burying Stobrod Thewes and Pangle, the type of protection offered by Monroe's clothes seems more than appropriate.

Why did Ada Monroe say in Chapter 17 of Cold Mountain that Reid is "not much of a one as far as men went," and what is Ruby's response later?

Reid, the Georgia boy, is not very impressive at all when Ada Monroe and Ruby Thewes first meet him. He will not take them to the site of the shooting. He asks for rewards for bothering to come to tell Ada and Ruby of what he has witnessed. He complains to Ada about the food she gives him. In response to Ada's comment, Ruby replies that he is "not particularly worse than the general order of men" and that he just needs "someone's foot in his back every waking minute." Her words are found again in the Epilogue of the novel, when her marriage to Reid is described as "a foot in the back when that was needed, a hug otherwise."

In Chapter 18 of Cold Mountain, when Inman first sees Ada Monroe on the snowy mountain, what image from much earlier in the novel is echoed?

When Inman first catches sight of Ada Monroe in Chapter 18, he can only make out a silhouette of a human figure in the woods, in a "chestnut tunnel." Ada is wearing pants and has just fired a gun, so he assumes it is a man. The image recalls the one Ada saw in the reflected image from the well in Chapter 2. She saw a black silhouette through a "corridor of trees" on a mountain. So, who is finding who on the mountain? Ada does not recognize Inman in her vision, nor for quite a while after he asks if it is she on the mountain, and neither does Inman recognize her at first on the mountain. What is clear is that both of them have been brought to this spot to be together.

What hopeful ideas about pain and loss are found in Chapter 19 of Cold Mountain that might help readers get through the novel's tragic ending?

As Inman and Ada Monroe become lovers and plan their future on their first night together, they also share their past and some of their deepest beliefs. When Inman tells Ada about the goatwoman, he shares her philosophy that "God lays the unbearable on you and then takes some back." He agrees that life's worst pain must be forgotten. Ada responds with the thought that people must "work at not trying to call such thoughts up." When Inman is taken from her, Ada must have the sturdiness of these ideas to tide her through—along with the gift of the daughter they create together on that long night of hopes and dreams.

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