The story of Cold Mountain is of a war and adventure across the mountainous terrain, but, most of all it is a love story. Before the blossoming love is torn by the separation of war, Ada and Inman venture into the woods together to say their goodbyes. There Inman recites to Ada a story told to him by an Indian woman. At the end of the story, Ada had nothing but a satirical remark regarding the validity of Inman’s tale. It wasn’t until later that she realized “that it had not been about an old woman but about his own fears and desires.”p 254 The moment in the woods made them recognize their differences. Their love for each other would not let them return to each others company until they had both settled their personal troubles.Order now
The war left Inman wounded physically and spiritually. “Inman had seen so much death it had come to seem a random thing entirely. He could not even make a start at reckoning up how many deaths he had witnessed of late. It would number, no doubt, in the thousands. Accomplished in every custom you could imagine, and some you couldn’t come up with if you thought at it for days. He had grown so used to seeing death, walking among the dead, sleeping among them, numbering himself calmly as among the near-dead, that it seemed no longer dark and mysterious.”p 230 The death and violence that Inman saw and enforced upon those he met distanced him even more from the person he once was. Much of this was attributed to the many encounters he had with his own death. At every turn there seemed to some other way for him to die, and another possible way for him to escape it.
Each encounter or thought of that day to be his last benefited him. He began to view the world around him in different light. The optimistic thought lasted but a minute, and he continually returned to his gloomy way of living. The image he now possessed disturbed him so much that he could not bear the sight of himself. “He looked down into a pool and caught sight of his visage looking up at him, wavery and sinister, and he immediately frabbled his fingers in the water…for he had no desire to look upon himself.”p 299
There was slow progression to Inman’s scorn toward people and nature. As his journey continued, he found himself to treat those around him with more respect. No only was this apparent with the people he encountered, but it was also obvious with his reaction to nature. Not far into his journey, Inman’s confrontation with Junior’s three-legged dog showed his inhumanity toward the living. The dog “ran low to the ground and completely soundless on a trajectory straight to Inman… Before it got to him, Inman kicked and caught it under the chin with a boot toe. The dog collapsed and lay motionless in the dirt.” p 211
The dog was evidently not a threat to Inman, but he persisted to fight anything that wanted to challenge him. He showed persistence to harm animals again when he encounter the bear and its cub. Without wanting to kill the bear, he ended up doing so anyway. As a tender way to relieve the cub of its loss, he shot the cub, and killed it also. Although Inman’s actions do not seem to be improving the intentions of them show progress.
Unlike Inman, Ada’s journey is not mapped out. Her journey is within herself and her property to find the best in both. Ada’s life begins to fall apart after her father’s death. She did not possess many qualities that would give people a reason to like her. “Many of her friends had fallen away, finding her too bristly and eccentric.”p 66 Besides the absence of her social skills, a lady told Ada that she was the “most naive girl”p 181 she had ever met.
Ada had lost more than a father when Monroe died. She also lost guidance. She depended upon her father to supply everything for her, including knowledge, and ways to think. The intelligence Ada had did not amount to much after her father’s death. Ruby aided Ada in her struggle for survival, and gave her much needed answers and friendship. Ruby stressed a life of working for what you wanted, and not just buying it. This method of thinking caused Ada to do things for herself. Ada developed an interest in nature that was not as superficial as before. She declared outloud when she said, “I am living a life now where I keep account of the doings of particular birds.”p 239 This served as an important revelation for Ada. Never before had she concerned herself with things, especially in nature.
Ada developed better relationships with people by being around Ruby. Their relationship, alone, taught Ada to express her emotions to someone other than her father, instead of neglect them. “Ada realized it was the first time they had embraced, and Ruby stood with her arms to her sides and was just a hard knot of a person in Ada’s arms.”p 373
However, it was not until the moment that Ada sat with Stobrod in the snow, and killed an animal for them to eat that she had matured to a person who knew how to take care of others and herself. At that same time, Inman went to drink from a creek when “a salamander…moved among the stones. Inman lifted it out and held it cupped in his hands and looked at the salamander’s face…He returned the salamander to its place and walked back…”p 392 When these two moments occur, both their journeys seem to be complete. The physical separation of Cold Mountain is not so restraining on each of them, and the paths leads Ada and Inman to each other.
They find each other just as Ada’s father fell in love with Ada’s mother. For many years they lived their separate lives, but it was in the time apart that circumstance made them come to appreciate each other. Because the tradition of history repeating itself will never seize, Ada and Inman’s future faced the same pattern as Ada’s parents did.