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Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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CHAPTER 15 a vow to bear


Inman is following the trails through the mountain country and sees an older woman crying over her dead daughter. Inman offers to help make a casket and bury the girl. To repay him, the woman cooks Inman a meal - corn grits, steak, eggs and butter. Inman is near tears as he searches his memory for an appropriate blessing to give thanks for the food, the likes of which he hasnít had since he began his journey. The woman also gives him provisions for the road.

For the next several days, Inman walks in the rain, taking shelter in bird homes. He reads Bartram and allows Bartramís vivid descriptions of the landscape to replace his own memories of the mountains. He continues southwest, passing the skeletons of three hanged men, then an old Cherokee rock cairn. He eventually climbs to the base of a cliff to make camp. At dawn a mother bear comes sniffing around near him. Recalling dreams from the past wherein Inman was a bear, happy and strong in the forest, and a final dream where he was slain by hunters, Inman remembers his vow to bear and will not kill the bear. He is trapped and speaks calmly to the bear. She charges him, but when Inman steps aside, the bear goes over the edge of the cliff. Inman feels bad, especially for the cub that will die of starvation or be attacked. Mercifully, Inman kills the cub and rather than have it be a waste, cooks and eats the meat.

As depressing as the situation is, Inman is cheered because he is nearing home. He recognizes the ridges before him. He surveys the landscape as he eats the bear meat with regret.


Inmanís encounters with human death in this chapter are not obstacles for him. He helps bury the dead girl and moves on. He sees the three hanging skeletons and the cairn, examines them and moves on. He takes comfort in Bartram and once again, the elevation of the terrain parallels the elevation of Inmanís spirit.

The chapter title has a double meaning. Inman has made a vow to bear, meaning a promise not to kill the animals. It becomes a vow to bear because he is driven to break the vow and must bear the regret, which to Inman, feels like sin.

CHAPTER 16 naught and grief


Stobrod, Pangle and a boy from Georgia are walking in the cold to find the hiding place where Ruby had agreed to leave food. They are able to find the food, but donít know which way to go from there. They make a fire and sit for a while. The Georgia boy walks off to relieve himself and Stobrod falls asleep.

Teague, the young boy who travels with him and a bunch of Home Guard ride up. Teague asks Stobrod if he knows anything of the outliers who have been robbing farmers. Stobrod says he may have heard of them but thinks they live on the opposite side of the mountain. Pangle appears perplexed at Stobrodís response. Teague repeats the question to Pangle who gives the real answer and directions to the outliers cave. Teague thanks him and calls his men over to join them at the fire.

They all have breakfast together and share a drink. Teague asks Stobrod and Pangle to play some music. They make music such as the Guard had never heard before. When they finish, Teague stands them in front of a tree and has them shot.


This is a short chapter and the only one that is not about Inman or Ada. The characters here, Stobrod and Pangle, likely stem from a double grave the author came upon during his own walk through the Smoky Mountains. The grave Frazier found is said to contain a fiddler and a retarded boy killed by Teagueís Confederate Home Guard. (See Historical Background) Much of the characterization of the novel is based on fact, like the bushwhacking outliers who rob farmers. Stobrod and Pangle add color and evoke pathos. They are used to illustrate the senselessness of the killing that historically occurred.


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