Cold Mountain . . . soared in his mind as a place where all his scattered forces might gather. Inman did not consider himself to be a superstitious person, but he did believe that there is a world invisible to us. He no longer thought of that world as heaven, nor did he still think that we get to go there when we die. Those teachings had been burned away. But he could not abide by a universe composed only of what he could see, especially when it was so frequently foul.

These lines come from the first chapter of the novel, “the shadow of a crow,” in which Inman convalesces in an army hospital before setting out on his epic journey home to Cold Mountain. They suggest that Inman sees Cold Mountain as a healing place, a spiritual sanctuary where he can retreat from the sufferings of the world. Frazier shows that Inman has to believe in a world other than the one he inhabits since his existence itself seems pointless. All that surrounds Inman is misery, putrefaction, and partition. His sentiments propose that the only way to accept that there is no order to this world is to know that harmony exists elsewhere. Inman’s philosophy is made more poignant by the fact that his yearning for spiritual understanding overlaps with his longing to return home. In the novel, Cold Mountain is both a physical and spiritual place. It is simultaneously Inman’s home and a refuge for his soul.