Cold Mountain | Study Guide

Charles Frazier

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Cold Mountain | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier's 1997 novel, traces the desperate journey during the American Civil War of Inman, a Confederate soldier, as he attempts to walk hundreds of miles to return to his home in the North Carolina mountains. Juxtaposed with Inman's story are the equally desperate efforts of Ada, the woman he loves, as she attempts to survive the war years.

The novel was an immediate success, landing on best-seller lists and selling millions of copies. It also won the National Book Award and was made into an Oscar-winning movie (2003) starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman.

1. The main character of Cold Mountain was a relative of the author's.

W.P. Inman, the main character of Cold Mountain, was Charles Frazier's great-great-uncle. He was wounded in battle and left the hospital to walk home as a deserter, a trip that was some 300 miles. He was shot and killed by Confederate soldiers before he finished his journey. The book is a fictional re-creation of his journey.

2. Cold Mountain is based in part on Homer's Odyssey.

When Frazier first heard the story of his great-great-uncle W.P. Inman, he thought immediately of Odysseus and his journey home from the Trojan War in Homer's Odyssey. In an interview, he explained how rather than writing "parallel scenes," he used it as more of an inspiration, keeping the book in mind "as a model of a warrior wanting to put that war behind him and get home."

3. Many residents of the real Cold Mountain aren't fans of the book.

Cold Mountain is a real place in North Carolina, and some of the nearby residents aren't thrilled by the way the area is depicted in the novel. Ted Darrell Inman, descended from the soldier on whom the book's main character is based, said, "We're not a bunch of hicks." He referred to the book's author as the "Frazier boy" and stated about the novel, "My mind don't have room for history and fiction combined." But a nearby bookseller noted, "We've had people read that book who haven't read anything else but the Bible."

4. It took Frazier seven years to complete Cold Mountain.

Frazier began writing Cold Mountain in 1989. He had never taken writing classes and so learned to write by writing. He was obsessive about rewriting; many chapters were revised up to 20 times. The novel was finally finished in 1996 and published in 1997.

5. Cold Mountain was number one on the New York Times best-seller list for more than a year.

Cold Mountain was Charles Frazier's first novel, and it moved to the top of the New York Times best-seller list almost immediately. It stayed on the list for 61 weeks, due in part to reviews like the one in the Times, which claimed the book was written with "prose filled with grace notes and trenchant asides."

6. Frazier was strongly influenced by music while writing Cold Mountain.

Frazier grew up listening to bluegrass, gospel, and folk music, and its influences are found in Cold Mountain. He includes the songs "Wayfaring Stranger, "Fear of the Great Redeemer," and "Hard Times." He also includes lines from songs as chapter titles, including "A Satisfied Mind" and "Bride Bed Filled with Blood."

7. There's a Cold Mountain opera.

Jennifer Higdon, a Pulitzer prize–winning composer, was commissioned by several opera companies to create an opera based on Cold Mountain. The opera premiered in 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to record-setting houses and received glowing reviews that called it "vibrant," "evocative," and an "astonishing triumph."

8. Frazier omitted the crucial role African American soldiers played in the Siege of Petersburg.

Critics have noted that Cold Mountain leaves out a pivotal detail about the war: In 1864 the Union and Confederate armies amassed at Petersburg, Virginia. Union soldiers dug tunnels under the Confederate troops and planted explosives there. A division of African American troops were involved in the assault and ended up pinned in the hole made by the explosives. More African American soldiers died in that battle than in any other battle of the Civil War. However, nowhere in Cold Mountain—the book or the film version—are the African American soldiers in the battle even mentioned.

9. Frazier's relatives fought for the South in the Civil War.

Frazier's great-great-grandfather and his brothers lived in North Carolina, and though they were not slaveholders, they enlisted in the Confederate army. Two of them were killed in the war. The author's great-great-grandfather returned to his home and became a minister.

10. The movie adaptation of Cold Mountain was filmed in Romania.

While a few locations in North Carolina appeared in the film adaptation of Cold Mountain, director Anthony Minghella chose to film most of the movie in Romania. The landscape there didn't include paved roads and telephone poles, making it appear more like the American South in the 1860s.

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