The novel Cold Mountain is about two peoples’ independent journeys through different struggles and situations at the same time. One of these people is Inman, an injured soldier who is trying to find his way home after deserting from the fighting. He meets a lot of strange people along the way. Some of them help and some of them hinder. However, they all teach him something about himself, or something that he can relate to himself. There are some characters that are more significant in this respect than others and they have more of an actual influence on Inman’s journey.
One of these characters is Veasey, the preacher. Inman meets him when he catches the preacher trying to throw a drugged, pregnant girl into the ‘Deep River’. Inman saves the girl from Veasey and leaves him to face his punishment. Later on in the story, Veasey returns with “his face…cut and marked by bruises”. Veasey is a general negative influence on Inman’s odyssey. He uses religion to justify his immoral acts and symbolises false faith and unrestrained selfishness. He is, however, company for Inman, even though Inman does not want it. They travel together and find a “grim roadside inn”. It is here that we see Veasey as being a danger to Inman. Veasey meets a prostitute called Big Tildy and makes a deal. Here, he picks a fight with a drunken, armed man who tries to take Big Tildy elsewhere. The two men draw their pistols at each other, but Tildy takes Veasey’s from him. Veasey wants to continue with the fight. Inman steps in and the drunken man goes away. “You’re set on getting us both killed.” Inman realises that Veasey is a danger and tries to leave him behind when he leaves, the next day. Veasey however, catches up to him again.
Together they both meet Junior and his family. Junior is another negative influence on Inman’s journey. Inman and Veasey, at first, think of him as friendly and kind for taking them in. however, he “snared” them in a trap and sold them to the Home Guard. The Home Guard are soldiers who were hired to catch deserters and, either kill them or imprison them. This group of Home Guard had Inman, Veasey and other prisoners all tied to each other in a chain. They are pulled along for several days in the opposite direction to the direction in which Inman was originally headed. “He watched all the westward miles he had accomplished start coming unspooled.” After a while, the Home Guard decide, “you pack of shit are just wasting our time”. They then open fire on the prisoners. Veasey, while trying to save himself, gets in the way of the bullet that should have delivered a fatal shot to Inman. This is ironic because all of the times that Inman tried to get rid of Veasey and he just kept on coming back. Also, all of the times that Veasey could have got Inman killed because of his selfishness, and yet in the end, he saves Inman’s life through an act of complete selfishness. Inman survives the ordeal with the Home Guard and continues on his journey.