Stobrod’s return and his connection with a community of outliers both disrupts the calm continuity of the women’s lives and shows the novel’s thematic opposition between the natural and man-made worlds. His sudden appearance at the fodder crib reminds Ada and Ruby that not all events may be explained by reference to the natural world—they had assumed that a small creature had been stealing their corn—but instead that men can manipulate, change, and sometimes threaten. Although Ruby is wary of helping her father, Ada’s generosity in sharing food with Stobrod shows her new openness of character and interest in her friend’s family.
One way that the novel follows through on its exploration of the differences between man-made and natural phenomena is by focusing on music, which plays an important role in these chapters. Stobrod’s repertoire of 900 fiddle tunes foregrounds the motif of sound and harmony that runs through the text. Ruby’s father talks about the tune he played to the dying girl, a melody that has now become a “habit” and that serves to give “order and meaning to a day’s end.” Ada finds it remarkable that music has redeemed Stobrod, even if this is only a partial redemption, and remains optimistic that everyone can make something of his or her life. Frazier shows how Stobrod has found something to give his life meaning, a thing for which both Ada and Inman are searching. Music also appears as a backdrop to Ada and Ruby’s natural environment. The dry scratching of the leaves in the trees is much like the snake rattle in Stobrod’s fiddle, although it does not carry the same sense of alarm or warning.
Music is similarly important in the “bride bed full of blood” chapter. Sara’s singing holds Inman’s attention because the words of her lullabies are full of pain and horror. Frazier suggests that, because tragedy is all Sara has known, it is all that she can sing about. Inman interprets her singing as a sign of her bravery. He identifies in it a touch of the “specter world,” a comment that calls to mind his belief in an invisible world. The routine that Inman and Sara develop—of lying beside each other in Sara’s bed like husband and wife—is both powerful and pathetic. It symbolizes a comfortable and content domesticity that Sara never again will know. Once again, Inman’s journey draws him into a world of pain in which he bears witness to the sadness and hopelessness of other people’s lives.
However, Inman is prepared to act as well as to listen. Inman realizes that he has to kill the three Federal soldiers so that Sara and her baby won’t starve. Although this act troubles Inman, he recognizes that he has suffered and seen worse acts committed in the name of war. Just as Inman killed the immoral Junior in “to live like a gamecock,” here he brings retribution to the Federal soldiers. Frazier casts his protagonist in the light of an avenger concerned with equalizing some of life’s inequalities. Inman’s acts prove that he has not lost the warrior instinct that preserved him in battle and that now fires his determination to return home.