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Inman’s character reflects a conflict between moral precepts
and the horrific realities of life. When the novel opens, Inman
is wounded and psychologically scarred by memories of war. The ghosts
of dead soldiers haunt his dreams at night and thoughts of Ada fill
his days. Despite his crippled psyche, Inman remains an honorable
and heroic man. Throughout the novel, Inman’s conscience guides
his actions. Although he is troubled by the deaths he has witnessed
and doesn’t wish to add to them, Inman is willing to resort to violence
if necessary. Frazier characterizes his protagonist as a warrior equipped
to fight moral and physical battles.
As a figure assaulted by evil forces, Inman justifies
aggressive means in the name of protecting innocent people, himself
included. Consequently, Inman’s journey is ideological as well
as geographical. Inman reconsiders his spiritual ideas in light
of the physical danger and suffering he encounters while traveling.
Inman’s travel book, Bartram’s Travels, is a spiritual
and topographical guide—it inspires Inman with idealized visions
of home and directs him towards that home. Inman consults the book
for spiritual sustenance and for escapist entertainment. Frazier
fills Inman’s journey with shades of deeper meaning, suggesting
that his physical travails mirror a more profound spiritual struggle.
Inman recalls and reinterprets past events as part of
his process of spiritual awakening. In particular, he remembers
Cherokee folktales and envisions a world located beyond the terrestrial
realm. Inman needs this kind of comfort, for, as he delves deeper
into the mountains, he becomes better acquainted with man’s capacity
for both good and evil. Following his encounters with Junior and
his near-death experience, Inman’s faith in himself falters. However,
his faith in a better world does not. Frazier suggests that Sara’s
and the goat-woman’s bravery also bolster Inman’s resolve. Inman
preserves his humanity under the weight of intense psychological
strain because he believes in a distant and better reality.
Inman’s name (we never learn his first name) suggests
that he is a self-reflective man, alone in the thrall of forces
greater than his own will. Inman cannot direct what happens to him,
so he seeks a measure of control by inwardly questioning his past
and speculating about his future. While it would be too simplistic
to state that Inman finds himself in Ada, he clearly identifies
in her the kind of life he wants to live—a life of peace, stability,
and affection. Thus Inman grows from a tortured and disillusioned
man into a calmer, more self-aware individual. Indeed, after a journey
fraught with suffering and spiritual turmoil, Inman is temporarily
redeemed by love. Ultimately, however, Frazier suggests that Inman’s
true redemption—an escape from the world with which he has become
so disillusioned—can only be attained through death.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Mountain!