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after all the battlefield carnage that Inman has witnessed, Inman
seems to endorse violence on his journey home.
The slaughter of the battlefield has inured
Inman to death, and he has had to draw on his own warrior instincts
to survive. Inman thus recognizes that violence is in his blood,
but he tries to control when and how he uses it. In addition to
biological instincts and concern for survival, both of which emphasize
his animalistic side, many different motives compel Inman to fight.
Often, as with the incidents involving the three men at the crossroad
town, the bear, and the Home Guard at the end of the novel, Inman
resorts to violence as a means of self-defense. However, in addition,
he sometimes lashes out in righteous anger over other people’s culpability.
For example, he kills Junior because of his crimes and the three
Federal soldiers who stole Sara’s hog. Yet Inman endorses more than
violence. Inman’s decision not to kill Veasey, but to leave him
to face the punishment of his own community, shows that Inman is
more than just a gun-toting vigilante. Morality is thus not an outdated
principle for Inman, even after all the meaningless carnage that
he has witnessed. However, he recognizes that war is a feature of
the landscape as much as the battlefield. If he has to fight to
return home, Inman is willing to do so.
Tales and memories
feature prominently in the novel as characters frequently call to
mind their past lives. Discuss why what has previously occurred
plays such an important role in shaping the novel’s plot structure and development.
The novel presents a view of time that is
quite abstracted and less direct then we expect from a work written
in the immediate past. The characters’ visions, dreams, memories
and folktales cloud over their present actions, making time seem
more of a circular than a linear progression. This ties in with
the novel’s themes about the cyclical patterns of nature and man’s
links with the natural world. Ada and Inman see convergence in the
future; the past and present are simply means of attaining that
ultimate goal. Thus, the novel nets together past and present events
to suggest the interweaving of human lives through time. This theme
is made more poignant because the novel is set in wartime, when
memories are often all that remains of loved ones killed in battle.
The ghosts of the past are recalled so that lost ones are preserved
in people’s consciousnesses. Ada and Inman keep each other’s pasts
alive in their memories to preserve their hope for the future.
Most of the
novel’s most dramatic moments turn on the theme of freedom and capture.
People are trapped, hunted, and attacked like animals. Discuss what
kind of comparison the author is drawing between death in nature
and killing in the human world.
Frazier suggests that all men and women are
subject to nature’s cycles, and that death is a certainty for every
living being. He introduces this theme at the beginning of the novel
by quoting Darwin. The novel suggests that, for one creature to
survive, another must die in order to preserving nature’s equilibrium.
This equilibrium encompasses the human world, and so Frazier juxtaposes
the conflicts in nature with the war between men. Many scenes show
characters struggling to gain control over death and to elude the
grasp of its agents, such as the Home Guard, who have the power
to decide who lives and who dies. The author suggests that, in order
to live, men must be free to make their own choices. Inman’s freedom
of movement is highly restricted; in many ways he is a hunted man. Similarly,
the many slaves within the novel are also leading oppressed lives.
Thus, on different levels, the novel examines man’s fight for liberation
and life against the forces of capture, death, and oppression.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Mountain!