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Free Study Guide - Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

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COLD MOUNTAIN FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE / NOTES

OVERALL ANALYSIS

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Major Characters

Inman

Inman is a native of the Cold Mountain region. He loves his homeland. After meeting and falling in love with the beautiful, cultured Ada Monroe he enlists in the Confederate army. He is wounded in battle twice. The second, a neck wound, is expected to be fatal. Inman does not die but he has been changed by the horrors of the battlefront. He has no illusions about glory or patriotism and deserts the army from the hospital. He longs for his home, Cold Mountain, and his love, Ada. The war and monotonous terrain that Inman is walking away from and the mountains and love that he is walking toward shape his character as he walks 300 miles home. He learns something from each obstacle he encounters along the way (much like Homer’s Odysseus), yet despite the pain and bloodshed he witnesses, he is always portrayed as a man of character.


Ada Monroe

Ada is a Charleston-raised socialite who is an anachronism on her deceased father’s farm in the mountains. The war’s new social and economic conditions have upended all that is familiar to her. She begins the story helpless and childlike, mostly due to her privileged and sheltered upbringing. She has no way of knowing that Inman is on his way home to her but wishes it were so. When Ruby enters Ada’s life, Ada begins to discover not only how a farm works, but also how she herself works. She and Ruby become friends and grow to depend on each other. Eventually Ada becomes strong and capable finding comfort in the land and in who she has become.

Ruby

Ruby is a drifter who comes to Ada and teaches her how to make a subsistence living from Ada’s neglected land. Ruby is hard on the outside and fully capable of living off the land. She knows “the signs” from nature and, being without a mother and untended by her father, can survive without anyone’s help. She has hurt feelings on the inside, however, which surface when her father, Stobrod, reenters her life. Her newfound friendship with Ada teaches her to accept her father and that it is all right for people to rely on each other.


PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

Though the novel is a narrative, it borders on the expository in that there is no true dialogue. When characters communicate, it is largely through the author’s explanation of what was said. Actual spoken words are offset from the text by dashes. No quotation marks or conventional indications of dialogue are used.

A linear storyline is not maintained. The narrative follows current events, and then stories within the characters’ memories recount events of the past. The past then serves to explain the present. The chapters are of roughly even length and the story moves at a slow pace that suits the steady and enduring sense of purpose of the characters. This smooth tempo of plot movement creates a balance between Inman’s journey toward Ada and the mountain he loves, and Ada’s journey toward her sense of self and her connection with the mountain. The alternating focus of each chapter, first Inman, then Ada, then Inman, etc. allows the reader a greater depth of understanding of how the characters’ lives are transformed by the events of the war and the events of nature.

 

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