Survival and Love in Charles Frazier’s "Cold Mountain"
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. (ll. 19-24)
Wordsworth’s famous and simple poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” expresses the Romantic Age’s appreciation for the beauty and truth that can be found in a setting as ordinary as a field of daffodils. With this final stanza, Wordsworth writes of the mind’s ability to carry those memories of nature’s beauty into any setting, whether city or country. His belief in the power of the imagination and the effect it can have on nature, and vice a versa, is evident in most of his work. This small portion of his writing helps to illuminate a major theme of the Romantic poets, and can even be seen in contemporary writings of today. One such work is Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. This story follows two characters, Inman and Ada, who barely know each other and are forced apart by the Civil War. As Ada waits in North Carolina Appalachia for Inman to return home from three years of battle, Inman decides to abandon the war effort and journey across the Southern states to reach his beloved.
Although this may seem like a simple love story, the changes each lover goes through in their journey of survival and love shows the romantic ideals of the beauty of nature and appreciation for the present time and reality. Frazier uses several themes prominent in the Romantic Age, significantly by the poets Wordsworth, Keats, and Coleridge, in order to show the power of the human imagination in extraordinary situations and everyday living as well. Inman and Ada each learn through their different experiences the truth of nature and the importance of memory and imagination.
The most prominent theme carried from Wordsworth’s poetry is the power of the human mind and its memory. Throughout Inman’s journey across the dangerous terrain of the South, he recounts the short but beautiful moments he experienced with Ada and Cold Mountain. Although he also fears the changes he has gone through in his mind and physical appearance, Inman is calmed by the memory of his love and the hope that she will be waiting for him. He also combines the memory of Ada with that of Cold Mountain itself.
The beauty of nature’s cycles is repeatedly honored in the novel. As Inman journeys home he analyzes the reason for war and comes to realize its absolute contradiction of nature. All of his life, he had lived according to nature’s clock, the seasons, night and day, and his ideas of war and its unnatural existence shows the appreciation he has for nature and its life-guiding force.
Men talked of war as if they committed it to preserve what they had and what they believed. But Inman now guessed it was boredom with the repetition of the daily rounds that had made them take up weapons. The endless arc of...