Study Guide

Cold Mountain Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Charles Frazier

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

The Call

Inman realizes he's not willing to go back to the army and that he really wants to go home to Ada. He heads for the hills—literally, since Cold Mountain is, you guessed it, a mountain.

The Journey

This part is easy to spot in Cold Mountain: when Inman starts walking, he's on the journey, and he stays on it until he gets to Ada in the end.

In the Journey, the hero usually faces life-threatening ordeals as he travels across hostile terrain. What have we got? Difficulty getting food and shelter? Check. Home Guard trying to kill Inman? Check. Threatening winter weather on the way? Check. Wild bears? Check.

It's definitely the Journey portion for most of this book. Like most heroes in a Quest story, Inman also gets some respite: for instance, the woman with the goats gives him food, shelter, and kindness.

Arrival and Frustration

Turn up that power anthem: our hero has arrived at Ada's farm, and she's not there. He has to trek through the snowy woods to find her, after all that walking. He's arrived and he's frustrated: pretty textbook so far.

The Final Ordeals

Here's where Charles Frazier starts to break the rules. The final ordeals in an ordinary quest story would be everything Inman does to find Ada and live happily ever after. In the normal version, he'd face off with the Home Guard before settling down to live happily ever after with Ada near Cold Mountain (The Goal).

Frazier changes it up, though: Inman faces most of the ordeals, has an amazing reunion with Ada, and then faces another round of ordeals when the Home Guard attacks. And then he dies. What's up with that? Read on to find out.

The Goal

Oh, that daredevil Charles Frazier. The Goal would ordinarily be the bit where Inman defeats the bad guys in the ordeals, reunites with Ada, and starts living happily ever after. Except he beats some of the ordeals, reunites with Ada, and then gets shot. Golly! What's Frazier doing here?

Oh, just reinventing the Quest story. Maybe the goal is a homecoming with Ada, and the happily ever after isn't important as the fleeting moment when Inman and Ada are at peace in each other's arms. So The Goal is actually achieved before Inman gets shot. It's still tragic when he dies, but there's a satisfaction to his reunion with Ada that can't be erased, even by death.

But you could also read the story more tragically, as a tale where the hero just doesn't achieve The Goal. The choice is up to you.

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