Cold Mountain Plot Analysis
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Exposition (Initial Situation)
Inman just wants to go home, and Ada wants to figure out what her life's about…not to mention how to run a large farm with no experience and practically no money—and they both start realizing how much they want to find each other.
That's the situation at the start of Cold Mountain, and as expositions go it's pretty good. Inman and Ada both want to survive, and they both want something else, a relationship with their home and with each other that they haven't quite found yet. There's somewhere for the plot to go, and we know what some of the main tensions are likely to be. It'll make a great movie. Maybe starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law?
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
I Will Survive
Cue the montage—Inman struggles bravely against attacks by wild animals, doubtful characters, and the Home Guard, and Ada and Ruby learn to work together to run the farm.
There's plenty of conflict as they struggle against nature and, in Inman's case, other people who want to hurt him. There's not so much one big complication as an accelerating series of them: the onset of winter, the return of Ruby's lazy father Stobrod and his need for help, the presence of the Home Guard hunting for deserters in Cold Mountain, where we know Inman is heading…
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
At the End of the Day
Inman and Ada are reunited in the woods near Cold Mountain, and spend a brief but wonderful time planning their life together; then the Home Guard shows up and shoots Inman. Talk about a crisis. This is the most intense moment of the book, where we just have to know what happens. And Frazier doesn't tell us. He leaves us hanging. Guess we'll read the Epilogue on this one.
Talk about your cliffhangers. The book ends with us wondering whether its hero is alive or dead. And it kind of skips the falling action. We know what happened in shadowy outlines because the Epilogue hints at it, but basically Cold Mountain builds up to and ends with the most dramatic moment: Inman getting shot.
Frazier doesn't even tell us if he lives or dies until the Epilogue, and even then it's by implication.
One for the Books
The Epilogue tells us that Ruby and the young runaway soldier who was hiding on the farm settled down and started a family. Inman isn't there, so we're left to piece together that the Home Guard's bullet was fatal. But Ada still lives on the farm and has a daughter, so we can also figure out that the girl is Inman's daughter as well.
The book doesn't say much of that directly, but it's all there for readers to put together, like a puzzle. Frazier is pretty brilliant in not saying everything—it lets the reader slowly piece together what's happened and do whatever mourning and celebrating is due.
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