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Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas
explored in a literary work.
The loneliness that many of the characters in the novel
experience informs their search for meaning in a world torn by war
and hardship. For example, Ada and Inman bury their feelings of
isolation, just as they internalize their grief, regret, and hope
for the future. Ada grows to feel content and secure at Black Cove
but recalls the alienation she felt both on first arriving and immediately
after her father’s funeral. She also recollects her sense of estrangement
from Charleston society. Similarly, Inman feels a sense of profound
loneliness and growing misidentification with the human world because of
his war experiences. His spiritual desolation is suggested when
he listens to many people’s tales of hardship but rarely shares
details of his own past. Through his loneliness Inman cultivates
an otherworldly spirituality, similar in many ways to the goat-woman’s,
that encourages people to talk. Frazier shows how Inman’s solitude
is not simply a physical state—it is a psychic introspection born
from a need to find meaning in what appears to be a senseless existence.
However separated Inman feels from the human world, his
character is not alienated from society. Even while he searches
nature for some overarching spiritual truth, Inman recognizes that
he seeks the solace of Ada’s company. His journey becomes a solitary
spiritual quest for communion with a greater power.
The novel examines the area where intuition and knowledge
overlap, particularly as this intersection touches on peoples’ religious beliefs.
The intellectual dictates of Christian society are seen as haughty
and somewhat artificial in comparison to the oral traditions and
cultural wisdom of more ancient civilizations and those with a connection
to the land. Although he is not conventionally religious, Inman
follows the Cherokee belief in a spiritual world. Inman uses these
tales to intuit truths from nature—as demonstrated by his identification
with the crow and the mountains of his homeland. Thus, Frazier shows
Inman shaping his own conception of personal faith with reference
to both received wisdom and intuition.
Ada re-evaluates both her intellectual and religious
life in order to understand the relationship between objective knowledge
and spirituality. Initially, she questions the merits of intellectualism
in light of knowledge gleaned from sensory understanding. As the novel
progresses, Ada embraces all that the land offers. She renounces
the absolute authority of books in favor of intuition. Ultimately,
she starts questioning her father’s religious beliefs, concluding
that the world around her is all that there is.
Generally, the characters balance an awareness and appreciation of
received wisdom with intuition. They share a belief in their land and
express this belief with reference to Christian doctrine, Cherokee
tales, or their own personal creeds.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Cold Mountain!