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Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | Symbols


Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain represents "safe harbor" for the novel's main characters. It is Inman's ultimate goal in the book, and it is the place Ada learns to call home. Both struggle to get there, but the mountain is something permanent they can count on. Cold Mountain looms above the world, reminding people some things never change. All they have to do is lift their eyes, even from far away. When Inman can finally see the mountain again in the distance, he feels "balanced anew." When Ada looks up from Black Cove and sees the mountain, even before she grows to call it home, she feels safe and protected.


Birds appear often in the book and symbolize the higher meaning that people often seek. Birds are an important part of the natural world. Ruby looks to birds for many signs, another example of her understanding of how the natural world works. It is not surprising that, as a child, she had to depend on birds for much of her sustenance.

Sometimes as people watch birds fly so freely, it makes them long for independence and freedom. When Stobrod wakes up briefly to see birds suddenly appear from the sky, he realizes life is not lost, that many things are still possible. At other times, birds symbolize different forms of freedom and escape, even death.

The songs of birds are also important in the book, sometimes serving as warnings and sometimes symbolizing celebration and change. Birds' colors are important to note. They might bring hope into an otherwise gloomy world, or a bird's color might remind someone of the ability to blend in to the environment and escape detection.


Roads lead people places they need to go, but in Cold Mountain, the route is sometimes very crooked. For example, Ada and Monroe have trouble finding the right roads to get to Cold Mountain. Inman is not able to travel on roads, as he must hide in order to avoid recapture, so his way home consists of winding paths and trails.

In this way, roads become symbolic of life's journey. People might not always choose the easiest route. They might lead themselves to dead ends or to trouble. They might be confused when they come to a proverbial fork in the road and not know which direction to take. But if they stick with it, if they keep trying to find their way, they will reach the right destination.

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