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MonkeyNotes-Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
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[Note: Page numbers are from the paperback, Vintage Contemporaries Edition, 1998.]

“It is difficult to believe in the dreadful but quiet war of organic beings, going on in the peaceful woods & smiling fields

-- Darwin, 1839 journal entry” (coverleaf)

This first of two quotes from the coverleaf describes the concept of survival of the fittest in nature. However in the context of Cold Mountain, “organic beings” can be expanded to include humans and what they must endure in a setting that would appear pastoral to a casual observer.

“Men ask the way to Cold Mountain,

Cold Mountain: there’s no through trail

--Han Shan” (coverleaf)

The second quote from the coverleaf refers to Cold Mountain Temple. Han Shan, the T’ang Dynasty poet-recluse and Buddhist monk whose name means “Cold Mountain”, is pronouncing that though the path is difficult and indirect, Cold Mountain can be attained. This has obvious parallels both physically and spiritually to the Cold Mountain of Frazier’s novel.

“Cold Mountain, all its ridges and coves and watercourses. Pigeon River, Little East Fork, Sorrell Cove, Deep Gap, Fire Scald Ridge. He knew their names and said them to himself like the words of spells and incantations to ward off the things one fears most.” (p.16)

This quote follows Inman’s reading from Bartram, the pioneer naturalist of the late 1700’s. Frazier, like Bartram, calls forth the beauty and power of the landscape. Inman uses Bartram and his own memories of Cold Mountain to bolster his endurance and drive him toward home.

“Earth has not anything to show more fair. Dull would be the soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty.” (p. 54)

Ada’s father, while driving through the mountains, proclaimed this quote from Wordsworth. It is another example of how the mountain acts as a main character and influences the other characters’ actions and emotions.

“this journey will be the axle of my life” (p. 71)

This is from Inman’s thoughts and shows his own insight into the fact that his entire future revolves around the outcome of this endeavor.

“The crops were growing well, largely, Ruby claimed, because they had been planted, at her insistence, in strict accordance with the signs.” (p. 134)

This exemplifies the intimate relationship the mountain people have with the land. Descriptions of these old ways of working are abundant and evidence that Frazier had much research behind his writing.

“Just general trees is all? You’ve got a long way to go.” (p. 289)

Spoken by Ruby to Ada, this contrasts the two women, but it falls in a scene that shows that Ada is interested in and trying to learn nature’s ways. It also illustrates the growing friendship between Ada and Ruby.

“Needing and getting don’t seem likely to match up any time soon... What needs doing is mine to do.” (p. 305)

Ada’s words sum up the melancholy mood of the novel and also show Ada’s progress toward self-mastery.

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MonkeyNotes-Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier


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