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Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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The protagonist is Inman, around whom most of the struggle and action centers. Cold Mountain is about his journey home from the ravages of the Civil War. He can be compared to Homer’s Odysseus as he meets trials along his way, wanting to return to his love. He longs for his home, Cold Mountain, and Ada who is experiencing her own internal odyssey toward self discovery.


The antagonist of Inman is the series of dangers he must survive. These come in the form of man (most notably, Teague), animal and nature. There are multiple antagonistic situations rather than a single antagonist. Inman exhibits cunning, bravery and especially endurance as he overcomes all challenges to reach Ada.


The climax occurs when Inman, who has survived being hunted throughout his travels, finally reaches Ada and finds himself at gunpoint rather than in an embrace. The climax lingers as Inman and Ada, both considerably changed by their recent circumstances, become reacquainted and consummate their love.


The climax ends in tragedy. After planning their life of married bliss, Inman dies in Ada’s arms after being shot by a young follower of Teague. The tragic events unfold quickly as the story comes to an end. The novel cannot be described as a tragedy though, because Ada ends up with Inman’s child and his love of the idyllic lifestyle on Cold Mountain.


Cold Mountain is at once a Civil War story, a magnificent love story, and the story of two parallel odysseys. The first is the odyssey of Inman, a wounded, disillusioned Confederate soldier who has failed to die in the hospital. He deserts and begins a lonely, dangerous walk across the devastated southern Appalachians. The thought of being reunited with his beloved Ada helps him endure the perils that hinder his way. He meets rogues and outlaws, and survives Teague’s Home Guard more than once. In addition, he survives severe weather, rugged terrain and a close encounter with a bear. Along the way he helps people whose lives have been destroyed by the war. In return, he is saved from starvation by what meager offerings they share.

The second is the odyssey of Ada, a cultured outsider to the mountains. Her father has died and left her helpless on the farm he bought as a pastime. Esco and Sally Swanger, Ada’s closest neighbors, direct a drifter named Ruby to Ada’s farm to help. Ruby agrees to stay on with Ada provided Ada treats her as an equal rather than as a slave. With Ruby’s knowledge of nature and self-sufficient attitude, the two women are able to get the farm into working order.

Eventually, Inman makes his way to Ada, completing his journey. Ada accepts him and completes her journey toward a new understanding of herself. Where they meet is an old abandoned Indian village in the mountains. They take shelter against the winter cold, and the bitterness of the war, inside one of the huts. They make love and plan their future.

On the way back to Ada’s farm, Inman is shot by a boy from Teague’s Home Guard and dies in Ada’s arms.

The epilogue finds Ada, nine years later, with a child by Inman. They live happily on Ada’s farm with Ruby and her family. Ada has grown to love Cold Mountain as Inman did.


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