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Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Frazier uses seasonal variation as an allegorical device
to reflect the development of his characters. Ada, Inman, and Ruby
seem to evolve in connection with nature’s changes and cycles. Inman
recognizes that his path is not strictly linear as he heads toward
a place where past and present will meet. He even notes that his
journey will be “the axle of my life.” The revolving motion Inman
experiences is underscored by the novel’s treatment of time. Ada
and Inman are haunted by memories—of themselves, each other, and
their past—that bind them together and sustain their hope for the
The cycles of time are mirrored by nature’s rhythms. The
night sky represents a cosmic map that might foretell future events.
Inman frequently observes Orion’s path across the heavens and plots
his own course by the location of sun and moon. As winter comes around,
death settles on the landscape with an intensity that foreshadows
Inman’s own death.
The novel focuses heavily on the past—both before the
outbreak of war and before Europeans colonized the Americans. For
both Ada and Inman, the protagonists, what has already occurred
resonates with undeniable authority. Ada thinks back on her childhood
and reaches important conclusions about the forces, both helpful
and harmful, that shaped her identity. Inman recalls both the horrors
of war and the spiritual consolation provided him by Cherokee folktales.
The arrowhead that Ada and Inman find symbolizes life’s fleeting
nature but also represents the potential for continuity and recurrence—Ada
and Inman vow to return to see it in the future.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Mountain!