Hannibal Free Public Library

Cold Mountain

Charles Frazier

March 29, 2010

The Civil War is entering its last, grisly year.  Inman, a veteran of the Petersburg and Fredericksburg campaigns, recovering from his wounds in a Confederate hospital, decides he has had enough of the pointless slaughter and walks out, heading across the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina toward Cold Mountain , where he hopes to reclaim his spiritual homeland and Ada , the woman he loves. It is to be an unforgettable odyssey through the soon-to-be-defeated South, with Inman pursued by relentless Home Guard troops whose task it is to hunt out deserters.  Interwoven with Inman's heart-stopping adventures is the story of Ada 's own internal journey.  As Ada and Inman's lives, long-separated, begin finally to converge, they discover unsuspected truths about themselves and each other, and about the new world that is being born from the ruins of the old.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about the style, or the voice, in which Charles Frazier tells his story. Do you find it realistic or stylized? What does it add to the overall effect of the story?
  2. Charles Frazier implies there was no moral onus attached to the act of desertion because of the moral barrenness of the Civil War and the crimes committed on the battlefield in the name of honor.  What do you think?
  3. Why has Frazier chosen to portray the deserters as good, and the Home Guard as evil?  Do you agree with him?
  4. How do Inman's views on secession, slavery, and war change by the time he finds himself in the military hospital?
  5. What point does Cold Mountain make about the nature and limitations of human knowledge?
  6. What do you conclude Frazier's ideas about God to be, and how do they differ from conventional Christianity?
  7. How does Frazier portray the natural world: as benign, treacherous, cruel, or indifferent?   Do you see influences of Darwin, Wordsworth, and Emerson in Inmanís, Rubyís or Ada ís thinking?
  8. Throughout Cold Mountain , the author works with the idea of the search for the soul. Inman, Ada , Ruby, Stobrod, Veasey, and the slaveholder's runaway son Odell are all in some way engaged upon this search. Which of them is, in the end, successful, and why?
  9. Both Ada and Inman reflect, at different times, that they are living in a "new world" [p. 33]. What changes is nineteenth-century America undergoing, and how do Ada and Inman's experiences, and the people they meet, reflect those changes?
  10. How, and why, is the ideal of womanhood changing?
  11. Both Ada and Ruby were motherless children from the time they were born. How has that state affected their characters, formed their ideas, and defined their relationships?
  12. Several of the novelís characters meet their death during the course of the novel. How do their deaths reflect, or redeem, their lives?
  13. What mythical or animistic images does the book offer, and what is their purpose? How does Frazier view, and treat, the supernatural?
  14. Charles Frazier has based his novel loosely on Homer's Odyssey. Which incidents from The Odyssey do you find reproduced in Cold Mountain , and how has Frazier reimagined them?