Study Guide

Cold Mountain What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Charles Frazier

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What's Up With the Epigraph?

It is difficult to believe in the dreadful but quiet war of organic beings, going on in the peaceful woods, & smiling fields.
—Darwin, 1839 journal entry

Men ask the way to Cold Mountain. Cold Mountain: there's no through trail.


Whew! A little gloomy there, huh Darwin? This epigraph lets us know we may be in for some tough stuff. North Carolina might be a beautiful place to vacation, but in this book we're going to get some warfare.


To make a long story short, the quote above probably uses Cold Mountain (in China) to symbolize a state of mind the poet Han-shan wants to achieve. You can get to that state of mind at Cold Mountain, as the poet is trying to do.

But you can only do it if you've achieved something in your inner life as well as your outer one: getting to Cold Mountain literally only helps you if you use that experience to achieve something in your mind (Henricks, 17-19).

This interpretation makes total sense for Cold Mountain, the book. Inman desperately wants to get home to his Cold Mountain (in North Carolina), but it will only help him find redemption if he can also transcend his bruised state of mind and find inner hope and healing. This epigraph is letting us know that there may be a better world than the one described in the Darwin quote…but it won't be easy to get to.

Cold Mountain What's Up With the Epigraph? Study Group

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