Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier|
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FREE PLOT SUMMARY / ANALYSIS - COLD MOUNTAIN
The conversation changed to omens of a bad winter. From caterpillars to mules the forces of nature foretell the evils of the war fouling the mountains. Ada listens intently to Esco’s predictions. He explains that Ada could see her own future if she takes a mirror and looks backwards into a well. Ada tries this and thinks she sees the silhouette of a man walking. The experience dizzies her, but she tells the Swangers that she saw nothing. Sally gives Ada a crock of blackberry preserves and Ada is on her way.
Close to home Ada opens the letter from Monroe’s solicitor that she had picked up at the post office. The letter explains the hard times imposed by the war and their effects on Ada’s income. She could realistically expect nothing. When she reaches her farm she settles into her favorite corner next to a stone wall. She falls asleep reading and does not awaken until the middle of the night. She then eats the entire crock of preserves and walks back to the house.
Ada tries to consider her options. The times are too hard to expect to find a buyer for the farm. It would be humiliating to return to Charleston and be compelled to marry for support. As she sits wondering and confused, a girl approaches from the road.
The girl’s name is Ruby. Sally Swanger sent her. Ada sees that though
Ruby is uneducated, she is bright and capable of farm tasks. She is there
to help Ada, not as a hired hand, but as an equal, or in her words, “with
both us knowing that everybody empties their own night jar.” Her first
undertaking is to pull the head off the rooster that had chased Ada out
of the bushes earlier and serve up a chicken and biscuit dinner.
Ada’s letter at the beginning of the chapter seems to answer the letter Inman wrote in Chapter 1. Though both letters are unsent, the reader gleans that Inman is coming home to Ada and Ada is waiting for him. Both characters also have the view through a window to ponder. Ada’s perception when gazing out of her window is a sharp contrast to Inman’s window. It is difficult for Ada to like the fields and ridges of Cold Mountain whereas Inman sees in them home and comfort.
Brilliant and cultured in art and academics, but clueless to the ways of nature, Ada strikes a deal with the drifter, Ruby, her opposite, not only out of necessity but because of a feeling of happiness Ada feels with Ruby. Ada resolves that she must find her true self here in the mountains.
In this chapter Frazier brings reality to the setting with more 19th century literature. Sword and Gown, written by G.A. Lawrence a Southern sympathizer, George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, and a “troubling tale by Hawthorne” which we assume to be The Scarlet Letter are on Ada’s reading list and underscore her crushed spirit. In addition, Ada’s father twice quotes lines from Wordsworth that were likely influenced by Bartram’s lyrical prose. These point to the mountains as the fundamental force behind the old life ways that Frazier elegizes in this novel.
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Cassie, D. L.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Mountain".
. 09 May 2017