male protagonist. The novel follows Inman’s journey home from the
slaughter he has witnessed in the Civil War. Inman is intelligent,
literate, and sensitive, although he often appears emotionally reserved.
Troubled by the carnage he has witnessed, Inman seeks spiritual
solace in the natural world and in his memories of Ada. He attempts
to retain his hope and his faith in a better world in the face of incomprehensible
violence and cruelty.
in-depth analysis of Inman.
female protagonist and Inman’s lover. Roughly half of the novel
is written from her perspective. Ada is a highly educated, literate,
and intensely private young woman. The novel begins six years after
she moves with her father from Charleston to Cold Mountain. She has
experienced the hardship and loss of her father’s death, and she
has been left penniless and in charge of the farm. Ada feels alienated
from small town society and rejects its restrictive mentality.
an extent, Ruby is a foil to Ada. Uneducated and illiterate, Ruby
possesses a store of knowledge about the natural world that she
gleaned while younger, when her father would leave her for weeks
at a time to go drinking. Ruby speaks plainly and insists on being
treated like an equal. She possesses a warm and loyal heart underneath
her gruff exterior. She supports her father when he returns as an
army deserter to seek her help.
dead father and the old preacher of Cold Mountain. Monroe moved
with his daughter to Black Cove to speed his recovery from consumption.
His wife died giving birth their daughter. A kind man and unconventional
preacher, Monroe recognizes in hindsight that he has been overly
protective of Ada.
father. Despite his drunk and disreputable past, Stobrod partially
redeems himself through music. He delights in composing and performing
his own fiddle tunes. As an outlier living in a cave on Cold Mountain,
Stobrod looks to his daughter for help in evading the Home Guard.
Even when down on his luck, Stobrod always manages to pull through,
as evidenced by his narrow brush with death at the hands of Teague’s
preacher whom Inman exposes for trying to murder his pregnant lover.
Veasey reunites with Inman on his journey west, proving to be an
unintentionally dangerous, though humorous, traveling companion. As
he uses religion to justify his immoral acts, Veasey symbolizes
both the hypocrisy of false faith and unrestrained selfishness.
fellow outlier and friend of Stobrod’s. Though simple-minded, Pangle
possesses a talent for playing the banjo and teams up with Stobrod
to form a musical duo. Pangle’s death stands as a testament to man’s heartlessness
in times of war and to wasted human life.
woman who lives in the mountains and raises goats, whom Inman encounters
on his journey. The goat-woman possesses a strong connection to
the natural world, healing Inman’s wounds with the help of food
and medicine. Frazier uses her character to highlight the advantages
and the disadvantages of a reclusive life (advantages and disadvantages
which Inman ponders throughout his journey). Although the goat-woman
finds her solace in nature, Inman realizes that she has sacrificed
a deeper human relationship in order to do so.
leader of a band of the Home Guard, a local militia charged with
rounding up the deserters. Teague is a cunning sadist who is mentioned
by both the Ada’s neighbors, the Swangers, and the captive with
fear and disgust. He represents the assumed authority of the army
whose crimes are justified in the name of war. His execution of
Pangle and other outliers in the text foreshadows Inman’s death
at the hands of Birch.
young associate who kills Inman. Although Birch convinces Teague
to bring the captive into town instead of hanging him, he is not
a sympathetic figure. With his white hair and glassy eyes, the boy
appears deadened by the violence he has witnessed.
befriends Inman and Veasey before handing them over to the Home
Guard. Inman’s unsettling experiences at Junior’s home suggest the
character may be a murderer who feeds his family human flesh.
peddler who meets Inman at an inn and tells him the sad tale of
his lifelong search for Lucinda, the slave-girl that he loves. Odell’s
story parallels Inman’s own quest to return to Ada and acts as a
reminder that the Southern army was fighting in part to uphold the legality
deserter awaiting execution whose tale Ada and Ruby overhear one
day in town. The man tells of his experiences at the hands of Teague’s
band of Home Guard, who shot his father for harboring outliers.
The captive insists that the world is about to end because of the
evil perpetrated in the name of war. The prisoner is the only character
to speak out against the war because he has nothing left to lose.
closest neighbors and friends. The Swangers oppose the war, although
both their sons are off fighting. Deeply religious, the couple was
offended by Monroe’s assumptions when he first arrived at Cold Mountain
that they did not know the Bible. In an important, neighborly gesture,
Sally sends Ruby to help out at the farm after realizing that Ada
intends to run it herself. The Swangers possess the quiet endurance
that characterizes many people in the novel.
eighteen-year-old widow who offers Inman food and shelter. Inman
feels bound to help when Federal soldiers steal her hog, the only
thing she and her baby have to live on. Her husband died in battle,
and she characterizes the resilience of many people in the novel whose
lives have been blighted by the war.
The Georgia boy
A young man who sets out with Stobrod and Pangle
to found a community of outliers at Shining Rocks. He avoids getting
shot by Teague by hiding in a thicket, and he later marries Ruby.
Cherokee boy Inman met in his youth. Inman recalls Swimmer’s tales
about gateways to an invisible spirit world found atop high mountains.
prostitute Veasey spends a night with at the inn. Big Tildy is strong
and seems capable of overpowering most men. As a black woman who
is not a slave, she does not conform to social conventions.
girl Veasey attempts to murder because she is pregnant with his
man Ada met at the last party she attended in Charleston.
friend of Monroe’s who lives in Cold Mountain town.
The yellow man
kind slave who gives Inman food and shelter after he gets shot by
the Home Guard.