[W]e have against all odds arrived at home, Monroe had said. At the time, it was a sentiment Ada took with a great deal of skepticism. All of their Charleston friends had expressed the opinion that the mountain region was a heathenish part of creation . . . Ada’s informants had claimed the mountaineers to be but one step more advanced in their manner of living than tribes of vagrant savages.

This passage is from the second chapter of the book, “the ground beneath her hands,” and it depicts Ada recalling what her father, Monroe, said the night they first arrived in Cold Mountain. This quote displays the closed mentality of Charleston society—its prejudice, snobbery, and sanctimoniousness. It also shows Ada’s initial wariness of the mountain community, a wariness that she later turns towards the “civilized” traits of urban society. It is ironic that the citizens of Charleston, who are presented elsewhere in the novel as proponents of the war, talk about the mountain inhabitants as being “gaunt and brutal,” since many of these mountain folk emerge as deeply humane people fighting to survive war’s deprivations. However, this quotation shows how a grain of truth may be exaggerated to produce a distorted representation of a group of people—a stereotype. We see the grain of truth in that Inman does meet monstrous people on his journey home, most notably Junior’s family; however, we also see the distortion involved in stereotypes in that Inman also meets men and women of great courage and humanity, such as the goat-woman and Sara. This passage displays the ignorance manifest in a closed society, and it suggests the fear inherent in human nature that leads one group of people to demonize another—a tendency that was particularly reflected in North-South hostilities during the Civil War.