Study Guide

Cold Mountain Writing Style

By Charles Frazier

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Writing Style


This book may be packed with action and full of tense questions about who will survive and how, but it's also beautifully lyrical and gives us a much wider exploration of human experience than your standard action-packed narrative.

For instance, check out the passage where Inman reflects on the fact that he's turned out to be pretty good at fighting, even though he's also come to hate it:

Before the war he had never been much of a one for strife. But once enlisted, fighting had come easy to him. He had decided it was like any other thing, a gift. Like a man who could whittle birds out of wood. Or one who could pick tunes from a banjo. Or a preacher with the gift of words. You had little to do with it yourself. It was more a matter of how your nerves were strung toward quickness of hand and a steady head so that you did not become witless and vague in battle, your judgment clouded in all kinds of ways, fatal and otherwise. That and having the size to prevail in the close stuff, when it came down to a clench. (5.114)

We're betting you won't catch Iron Man describing a fight this way. By this point in the book, Inman wants to give up fighting and thinks the war should end, but that doesn't stop him from reflecting on what makes him good at it. He's also thoughtful enough to recognize that it's not necessarily his willpower that makes him successful at war…it might also be things he doesn't control, like his height.

The passage is also ironic, because by this point we know that Inman doesn't want to fight. He'd much rather be doing something peaceful like whittling or playing the banjo. So this passage is full of tragic irony, since he's turned out to be good at something he's now against.

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