Study Guide

Cold Mountain Freedom

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 1

Inman never did know what seized him at that moment, but he stepped out the door and set the hat on his head at a dapper rake and walked away, never to return. (1.5)

Inman ran away from school as a kid, during a lesson about war. Who's surprised?

Chapter 2

It was with a familiar delicious tingle of pleasure, a tightening in her breathing, that she realized she was now similarly hidden away, that anyone walking from the gate to the porch would never know she was there. (2.10)

Remember that great place you found for hide and seek as a kid? The one where nobody could find you? Ada does too. But why is she happier when she's hiding? Maybe there's a freedom in it that she can't find around people at this point in the novel.

Chapter 3

Thinking: this journey will be the axle of my life. (3.4)

What's with the axle metaphor? Is Inman about to open a friendly, hometown garage? If we think of an axle as the thing around which a wheel turns, it makes more sense. Inman's life will turn around during this journey, partly because it will determine whether he'll be free of the burden of war or not.

At another time the scene might have had about it a note of the jaunty. All the elements that composed it suggested the legendary freedom of the open road: the dawn of day, sunlight golden and at a low angle; a cart path bordered on one side by red maples, on the other by a split-rail fence; a tall man in a slouch hat, a knapsack on his back, walking west. But after such wet and miserable nights as he had recently passed, Inman felt like God's most marauded bantling. He stopped and put a boot on the bottom rail of the roadside fence and looked out across the dewy fields. He tried to greet the day with a thankful heart, but in the early pale light his first true vision was of some foul variety of brown flatland viper sliding flabby and turdlike from the roadway into a thick bed of chickweed. (3.1)

Inman's road-tripping, and he should be having a great time miles from every care. But he's not really free because he's escaping a war, not to mention the Home Guard. Is freedom actually possible in his situation?

Chapter 5

The road, they said, was a place apart, a country of its own ruled by no government but natural law, and its one characteristic was freedom. (5.127)

Is the road this way for Inman? There's definitely some natural law goin' down. Nature has some clear rules, like "Don't disturb bears." But lots of the time human rules seem to intrude on Inman's experience of the road.

And then at some point the white man said a strange thing. He said that someday the world might be ordered so that when a man uses the term slave it be only metaphoric. (5.128)

This doesn't sound so strange to us twenty-first-century readers—fortunately! But to Inman, who grew up in a country with slavery, maybe it does sound unexpected. What would it take for him to imagine a world where everyone can be free?

Chapter 7

No, I'm traveling. A pilgrim like yourself. Though maybe I speak too soon, for all who wander are not pilgrims. (7.28)

What's it mean to be a pilgrim? Other than turkey dinner, that is. Does being a pilgrim have anything to do with freedom?

Chapter 10

But there we have peace. And though we die as all men do and must struggle for our food, we need not think of danger. Our minds are not filled with fear. We do not endlessly contend with each other. I come to invite you to live with us. Your place is ready. (10.71)

If Inman's normal world is starting to look like The Hunger Games, the world described by the messenger in this story sounds more like Avatar's Pandora without the baddies. (This is from the story the Cherokee woman tells Inman about escaping to a different world; see our "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section for more.) Maybe freedom from fear is one of the most important kinds of freedom in Cold Mountain.

Chapter 19

When Ada disappeared into the trees, it was like a part of the richness of the world had gone with her. He had been alone in the world and empty for so long. But she filled him full, and so he believed everything that had been taken out of him might have been for a purpose. To clear space for something better. (19.14)

Hmm. Empty sounds bad. But maybe feeling empty gives Inman a kind of freedom he couldn't have reached before. And maybe that lets him accept something better. Could he have come to this point with Ada without the experience of war?

As a last resort, they could fast for the prescribed number of days and wait for the portals of the Shining Rocks to open and welcome them into the land of peace. (19.4)

This story about an escape into a better world, originally told to Inman by an old Cherokee woman, comes back over and over in Cold Mountain (see the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section for more). What's it saying about freedom? Maybe you can't be free without peace of mind.

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