Study Guide

Cold Mountain Innocence (Loss of)

By Charles Frazier

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Innocence (Loss of)

Chapter 1

In his mind, Inman likened the swirling paths of vulture flight to the coffee grounds seeking pattern in his cup. Anyone could be oracle for the random ways things fall against each other. It was simple enough to tell fortunes if a man dedicated himself to the idea that the future will inevitably be worse than the past and that time is a path leading nowhere but a place of deep and persistent threat. The way Inman saw it, if a thing like Fredericksburg was to be used as a marker of current position, then many years hence, at the rate we're going, we'll be eating one another raw. (1.62)

Yikes! Inman's war experiences have made him doubtful not only of his own future, but everybody's.

And, too, Inman guessed Swimmer's spells were right in saying a man's spirit could be torn apart and cease and yet his body keep on living. They could take death blows independently. He was himself a case in point, and perhaps not a rare one, for his spirit, it seemed, had been about burned out of him but he was yet walking. (1.63)

Inman seems to be living without hope. Where does he find the hope to go on his journey?

He raised his coffee cup to his lips and found it cold and nearly empty, and he put it down. He stared into it and watched the dark grounds sink in the remaining quarter inch of liquid. The black flecks swirled, found a pattern, and settled. He thought briefly of divination, seeking the future in the arrangement of coffee grounds, tea leaves, hog entrails, shapes of clouds. As if pattern told something worth knowing. (1.61)

Inman seems pretty hopeless here. It sounds as though he's so doubtful of the future after fighting in the war that he doesn't care if he could understand it or not.

From inside the tavern came the sounds of a fiddle being tuned, various plucks and tentative bowings, then a slow and groping attempt at Aura Lee, interrupted every few notes by unplanned squeaks and howls. Nevertheless the beautiful and familiar tune was impervious to poor performance, and Inman thought how painfully young it sounded, as if the pattern of its notes allowed no room to imagine a future clouded and tangled and diminished. (1.60)

Does music have a power to restore innocence? What does the rest of the novel suggest about that idea?

Inman had been given the happy job of escorting a few heifers to graze the last grass of summer in the high balds on Balsam Mountain. He had taken a packhorse loaded with cooking tools, side meat, meal, fishing gear, a shotgun, quilts, and a square of waxed canvas for tent. He expected solitude and self-reliance. But when he got to the bald there was a regular party going on. (1.52)

In the first chapter, we get a story of Inman as a younger man. It's pretty awesome: taking care of cows up on Balsam Mountain, enjoying nature, making friends with a group of Native Americans working nearby, and so on. Would we understand the later Inman as well if we didn't have this moment of his youth to look back on?

All in all, his wounds gave him just reason to doubt that he would ever heal up and feel whole and of a piece again. (1.69)

We're betting this is a metaphor.

Chapter 5

At the time, Inman had thought the boy a fool and had remained content to know our name for Orion's principal star and to let God keep His a dark secret. But he now wondered if the boy might have had a point about knowledge, or at least some varieties of it. (5.58)

Inman thinks this about a boy who said that God had his own name for Orion that humanity wasn't meant to know. The boy added that what mostly comes of knowledge is scenes like the scarred battlefield the men are on at the time. Are there some kinds of knowledge that are bad for people?

He slept some and listened to the fiddler and watched a woman telling fortunes by reading the pattern of leaves in a cup of herb tea, but he declined her offer to tell his own future for he figured he already had all the discouragement he needed. (5.121)

Sometimes a cliché is true: this would be funny if it weren't so sad.

Chapter 18

All your grief hasn't changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You're left with only your scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it's knowing you carry your scars with you. Nevertheless, over all those wasted years, he had held in his mind the wish to kiss her there at the back of her neck, and now he had done it. There was a redemption of some kind, he believed, in such complete fulfillment of a desire so long deferred. (18.93)

What's the difference between innocence and redemption in this book? How does this quote answer that question?

She still missed Monroe more than she could say, and she told Inman many wonderful things about him. But she told as well one terrible thing: that he had tried to keep her a child and that, with little resistance from her, he had largely succeeded. (18.118)

Why didn't Ada resist being kept a child, as much as she loved her father and as much as he earned her love? What causes her to grow up in this book?

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...