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Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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The novel is set around the fictional town of Cold Mountain in the southern Appalachians. The town is analogous to the area around the present day Waynesville, North Carolina, which sits in the shadow of the 6000+ ft. Cold Mountain. The people in the story run their farms the old nineteenth century way, by hand and with animal power.

The time is the mid-1860’s, one of the most transformational periods of American history. It is toward the end of the Civil War. The people in this setting have been absorbed into the conflict and exhibit the uniquely Appalachian response to the war. They first rally out of loyalty to homeland, but then see a war about politicians that want to start a new country. (see Historical Information) The farms in the setting have been devastated by the war and the women, children and old folk that remain fear the Union and Confederate marauders equally.


Major Characters

He is a Confederate soldier who deserts from a hospital after being severely wounded. He walks toward Cold Mountain, his home that he loves, hoping that when he arrives the beautiful Ada will have him as her husband. He meets danger of every sort along the way.

Ada Monroe
She is a brilliant, Charleston society woman who finds herself helpless on her father’s farm in Cold Mountain after her father’s death. She has feelings toward Inman and awaits his return. With the help of Ruby she learns the ways of the land and begins to plan her future.

She is a nature-wise young woman that helps Ada learn how to run the farm. Her mother is dead and her father did not take much care of her so she is fiercely capable and independent.

Cold Mountain
Though it may seem absurd to list the setting as a character, the mountains are a primary force in the novel. The other characters interact with the land and are influenced in their feelings and actions by the land as much as they are by any other character. This is particularly true for Inman who was moving away from not only the war, but also the landscape that he considered vile, and moving toward not only Ada, but also the mountains he considered home.

Minor Characters

Esco and Sally Swanger
They are an old couple whose sons have gone to war. They facilitate Inman’s meeting Ada, and later, Ada’s survival on the farm. Until Ruby shows up, they are the epitome of the old farm ways to Ada who cannot fend for herself. They offer Ada both food and advice.

He is the ruthless leader of the Home Guard, a group that tracks down Confederate deserters. He is more likely to kill the men he finds than to bring them back into service. The Home Guard is a constant threat to Inman and any other travelers or outliers.

He is Ruby’s father who seems to have been transformed by the circumstances of the war from a drunk into an inspirational fiddle player. He did little to raise Ruby, but reappears in Ruby’s life to be cared for by Ada and Ruby.

He is a preacher who Inman prevents from murdering a young girl that Veasey has gotten pregnant. He quits as a preacher and takes to the road where he meets Inman once again. They travel briefly together with Inman having to cover for Veasey’s greed and lack of character.


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Cassie, D. L.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Mountain". . 09 May 2017