Study Guide

Cold Mountain Warfare

By Charles Frazier

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Chapter 1

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. Feeling empty, however, as the core of a big black-gum tree. Feeling strange as well, for his recent experience had led him to fear that the mere existence of the Henry repeating rifle or the eprouvette mortar made all talk of spirit immediately antique. His spirit, he feared, had been blasted away so that he had become lonesome and estranged from all around him as a sad old heron standing pointless watch in the mudflats of a pond lacking frogs. (1.63)

Not only is war soul-deadening, but it seems to be getting worse as technology improves. Things like the Henry repeating rifle are examples of war technology that makes battles more terrible than they used to be with good old longbows and broadswords.

Old Lee, not to be outdone, said it's a good thing war is so terrible or else we'd get to liking it too much. As with everything Marse Robert said, the men repeated that flight of wit over and over, passing it along from man to man, as if God almighty Himself had spoken. When the report reached Inman's end of the wall he just shook his head. Even back then, early in the war, his opinion differed considerably from Lee's, for it appeared to him that we like fighting plenty, and the more terrible it is the better. (1.35)

Lee's a hero to a lot of people. But Inman doesn't seem too impressed. What do you think? Is Lee a courageous figure in a tough spot? Or is he more of an oppressive authority figure himself?

He talked at length through the morning about history, teaching the older students of grand wars fought in ancient England. (1.5)

Inman's early education glorified war, but his actual experience of war has been pretty awful.

He handed it to Inman and said, Come on, cite me one instance where you wished you were blind.

Where to begin? Inman wondered. Malvern Hill. Sharpsburg. Petersburg. Any would do admirably as example of unwelcome visions. But Fredericksburg was a day particularly lodged in his mind… (1.26-27)

It's pretty bad when someone asks you for a time when you wished you were blind and you have a whole list. The sights of war must be truly horrific for Inman.

Chapter 5

Before them was the battlefield falling away to the town and the river. The land lay bleak as nightmare and seemed to have been recast to fit a new and horrible model, all littered with bodies and churned up by artillery. Hell's newground, one man had called it. (5.54)

Charles Frazier could probably start a side business in dark YA novels like The Hunger Games. He sure knows how to describe a terrifying scene…and like a lot of dark YA novels, this scene comes partly from technological advances in war.

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)

Having a gift for fighting seems deeply ambiguous at best. Inman's good at it, but it's torn him apart.

Right there's what mostly comes of knowledge, the boy said, tipping his chin out at the broken land, apparently not even finding it worthy of sweeping a hand across its contours in sign of dismissal. At the time, Inman had thought the boy a fool…. But he now wondered if the boy might have had a point about knowledge, or at least some varieties of it. (5.58)

Is the boy who thinks that knowledge causes war and destruction right? What kind of knowledge has Inman learned on the battlefield?

Chapter 6

That is the way of the Federals, another of the women said. They have come up with a fresh idea in warfare. Make the women and children atone for the deaths of soldiers. (6.10)

War doesn't just hurt soldiers. Especially if one side is experimenting with tactics that affect civilians directly.

Chapter 8

Their talk turned to the war and its effects, and Mrs. McKennet held opinions exactly in accord with every newspaper editorial Ada had read for four years, which is to say Mrs. McKennet found the fighting glorious and tragic and heroic. Noble beyond all her powers of expression. She told a long and maudlin story she had read about a recent battle, its obvious fictitiousness apparently lost on her. (8.18)

She may not have Facebook or Twitter, but Mrs. McKennet keeps up on the news. Too bad the papers aren't telling her what Inman knows about battle.

Chapter 18

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)

Inman is thinking about the war here and the terrible damage it did to him. But it seems like there might be a hope—as terrible as war is, maybe he has found something on the other side of it after all.

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