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Identity in Cold Mountain Essay


Cold Mountain

People usually begin a journey to achieve a goal or arrive a destination, but more importantly, through the journey, they can find a self they have never noticed before or create a new self who adapts to the current environment. In Charles Fraziers Cold Mountain, the Cold Mountain is the destination the Inman wants to arrive at. Although not physically starting a journey, Ada goes through a mental journey which causes physical and spiritual changes in her. Metaphorically, she reaches Cold Mountain through achieving spiritual contentment and tranquility. By depicting the progress and transformation happened in Ada, Frazier shows that people can reach the spiritual zenith by going through a journey of introspection and self-perfection, and uses the book to inspire people to find their own pathway to the Cold Mountain.

For Ada, the real rift comes after Monroes death, which forces Ada to live alone. When she first arrived at Black Cove, she was a delicate young lady who mirrored many aspects of the luxury life in Charleston; She was filled with opinions on art and politics and literature and ready to argue the merits of her positions (30). She was not able to fit in the country life in Black Cove very well, Ada stood at the edge of the graveyard looking altogether foreign and beautiful and utterly awkward. Everyone else wore woolens against the damp chill, but Ada had on an ivory-colored linen dress with lace at the collar and sleeves and hem. She seemed to have chosen it more by the calendar than the weather (80). Adas deity clothes and behavior alienate her from the rest of people living in Black Cove and show that even though Ada left Charleston, her state have not changed yet. Ada was tightly dependent on Monroe and lack of a sense of certainty and security; Inman noted that every time she was approached, Ada took a step back until she fetched up against the headstone of a man who had fought in the Revolution (80). On the one hand, Ada did not get used to talk with local people, and on the other hand, she felt superior to them because of her education and intelligence. Adas lack of security also shows in her habit of painting:Gossip had it that she went about with a notebook and pencil and would stare at a thing-bird or bush, weed, sunset, mountain-and then scratch at paper awhile as if she were addled enough in her thinking that she might forget what was important to her if she did not mark it down (77-78). People always tend to record what they have seen in case that they will never see it again. So, Adas painting habit is might caused by her unsettled mind. Right after Monroes death, Ada can not make a living by herself: Ada could not name and had neither the energy nor the heart to fight...She had left the chickens to fend for themselves and they had gotten skinny and skittish (28). Instead of facing the problems, Ada chooses to escape from them: It was with a familiar delicious tingle of pleasure, a tightening in her breathing, that she realized she was now similarly hidden away, that anyone walking from the gate to the porch would never know she was there (29-30). Ada is secluded herself from the world around her; even to Inman, Ada writes an artificial letter which cannot express her true feeling; Know that I consider it a mutual duty, that we owe to each other, to communicate in a spirit of the utmost frankness and candor (27). The formal tone in the letter reflects Adas isolation as well, because a person who does no have contact with the outside world cannot effectively expose his/her genuine affection toward others.

However, Adas mental state changes after watching the silhouette in the well and realizing that it is the time to let it go and make her own life. Even though the scene appearing in the well is obscure and cryptic, the sense of certainty and strength within it give Ada the courage to change her current condition:

What she saw was a wheel of bright light, a fringe of foliage all around. Perhaps a suggestion of a road through a corridor of trees, an incline. At the center of the light, a black silhouette of a figure moved as if walking, but the image was too vague to tell if it approached or walked away. But wherever it was bound, something in its posture suggested firm resolution. Am I meant to follow, or should I wait its coming? (49)

There are several possibilities for the identity of the figure in the silhouette, but the firm resolution suggested in the posture means something to Ada. No matter what will happen in the future, it is better for Ada to step forward than to wait for change; She thought of her father in the dream and of the dark figure in the well. Though she loved Monroe deeply, she realized she was oddly affected by his appearance in her visions. She did not want him coming for her, nor did she want to follow him too immediately (63). Here we see that Ada decides to let the bygone be bygone and start her new life through her own efforts. The new life in Black Cave is definitely a challenge for Ada since she knows nothing about farming; nevertheless, the meaning behind this new journey matters more: The mountains and a desire to find if she could make a satisfactory life of common things here-together they seemed to offer the promise of a more content and expansive life, though she could in no way picture even its starkest outlines (66). No pains no gains; the more Ada suffers, the richer her life will be.

Adas journey is a combination of loss and gain, a procedure of self-defining and self-elevating. Adas biggest gain is her helper, Ruby; The rudeness of eating, of living, thats where Ruby seemed to aim Ada every day that first month. She held Adas nose to the dirt to see its purpose. She mad Ada work when she did not want to , made her dress in rough clothes and grub in the dirt until her nails seemed to her crude as the claws of a beast (104). For Ada, the burdensome house and farm work can be quite arduous, yet she quickly builds confidence in herself and becomes interested in the natural world: She stooped momentarily and worked her hands under the grass and into the dirt that still felt warm as a living thing from the heat of the day and the body of the cow (145). Ada gradually discards her old self by abandoning objects that is related to her past: Ada sold her piano and keeps the cabriolet; She worried that it was the mobility of the thing that held her to it. The promise in its tall wheels that if things got bad enough she could just climb in and ride away. Be like the Blacks before her and take the attitude that there was no burden that couldnt be lightened, no wreckful life that couldnt be set right by heading off down the road (97). The piano metaphorically represents Adas fine self while the cabriolet symbolizes a possibility of a journey and a hope for the future. Also, Ada dressed the scarecrow with her old party dress, which again demonstrates that Ada has made her mind to change her old self and live a more practical and substantial life; finally she decided on the mauve dress that she had worn the last night of the party on the Wando River...This was the one she wanted to see standing in a field through rain and shine (239). In reward, Ada has redefined herself and reconstructs faith in life: She stopped and looked. The dress the figure wore was the color called ashes of roses, and Ada stood, held in place by a sharp stitch of envy for the womans dress and the fine shape of her back and her thick dark hair and the sense of assurance she seemed to evidence in her very posture (143). Ada now recognize not only the figure in the mirror, but also herself as a person. When time goes by, her lavender dress may become bleached to the color of an old shuck (240). However, a strong, confident and independent Ada will stand firmly in the field.

In addition, Add changes physically as well as mentally. In Adas letter to her cousin Lucy, she said that you would not know me; nor, upon seeing the current want of delicacy in my aspect and costume, would you much care to (326). Ada has transformed from a elegant city lady to a strong working woman. Mentally, Ada receives satisfaction and stability: You would not know it on me for I suspect it is somehow akin to contentment (327). Moreover, although still in love with reading, Ada begins to have new perspective toward her books; Whatever a book said would lack something essential and be as useless by itself as the gudgeon to a door hinge with no pintle (377). Being close to the natural world, Ada learned a lot from the nature which is never mentioned in books. The more Ada has seen, the wider her though has developed: She wished all the people of the story to be more expansive, not so cramped by circumstance.What they needed was more scope, greater range. Go to the Indes, she directed them. Or to the Andes (328). She is no longer the girl who sit besides the window and hold a book quietly; instead, Ada has owned more interpretations about the books and the world. The changes also appear in her letter to Inman: Its ultimate line was: Come back to me is my request...Ada had to admit that, at least now and again, just saying what your heart felt, straight and simple and unguarded, could be more useful than four thousand lines of John Keats (344). Ada now is more willing to express her feeling directly and clearly, which shows her faith in herself and her life. Adas stability in mind is reflected by her mark of place and time: Keeping track of such a thing would place a person, would be a way of saying, You are here, in this one station, now. It would be an answer to the question, Where am I (330). Ada used to question where the home is and what her future is going to be, but now, by setting a new life with Ruby, Ada finally settles her mind and builds her home, a place where you find yourself. Adas point of view about people and the world is changed by her encounter with Stobrod; To Ada, though, it seemed akin to miracle that Stobrod, of all people, should offer himself up as proof positive that no matter what a waste one has made of ones life, it is ever possible to find some path to redemption, however partial (297). Witnessing the miraculous changes happening within Stobrod, Ada realizes that it is possible for everyone to create a better self through a journey of introspection.

Adas final reunion with Inman shows the progress happened in both of them and by seeing the changes of each other, Ada and Inman gain a deeper understanding of their own changes as well. In Inmans memory, Ada is a delicate girl like a daisy; She would be dressed in her fine clothes. She would see him and know him in every feature. She would run to him, lifting her skirts above her ankle boots as she came down the steps (394). Unexpectedly, Ada does not recognize Inman and even holds a gun against him;He walked ahead, and soon a figure bloomed out of the light before him, a black silhouette arched over by tree limbs. It stood straddle-legged at the end of the chestnut tunnel and when it saw him it brought to bear on him a gun...Then he saw Adas fine face atop some strange trousered figure, like a mannish boy (403). Both Inman and Ada are no longer their old selves. Those changes in fact do not weaken their affection; instead, the experiences of loss and gain build a strong connection between the two and make them mirrors for each other. Ada has already become an independent woman, and she said -I know I dont need him, Ada said. But I think I want him (410). She does not need a man to protect her or to feed her; she wants Inman to be there with her as a companion for her soul:

Things that in her previous life were unimaginable suddenly seemed possible, and then they seemed necessary. She thought that Inman had been alone too long, an outlier. Without the comfort of a human touch, a loving hand laid soft and warm on shoulder, back, leg. And herself the same as well (410). They are two wounded person who can only be warmed and healed with each others company. Compared to their past affection, their present relationship seems to be more intimate: She could not previously have done a thing so intimate. He knew that. She had made her way to a place where an entirely other order prevailed from what she had always known (417-418). Ada now is a spiritual elixir for Inman; she believes that redemption can happen in every individual as long as you has faith in it: I know people can be mended. Not all, and some more immediately than others. But some can be. I dont see why not you (420). Adas positive attitude toward the world suggests her mental strength and confidence. Rather than cutting off the connection between the past and present, Add prefers to juxtaposing the old and new self in order to acknowledge her improvement: And then she thought that you went on living one day after another, and in time you were somebody else, your previous self only like a close relative, a sister or brother, with whom you shared a past. But a different person, a separate life. Certainly neither she nor Inman were the people they had been the last time they were together. And she believed maybe she liked them both better now (422). Although Inman and Ada do not finally live together, in the epilogue, Ada shows her contentment about her family life and admires the cycle of the nature; she knew the seasons came around and around had neither inauguration nor epilogue (447). As the door closes, the book ends with a warm ending along with endless and cyclical pattern of the nature, and for readers, we finally see the twilight on the top of the Cold Mountain.

In the poem by Han Shan, the narrator asks where is the Cold Mountain, but nobody knows; same in the Cold Mountain, Inman does not achieve his goal. However, the ending is not sad, but full of warm and hope, because Adas peaceful family life may imply the possibility of reaching the Cold Mountain. There are many journeys in peoples life that are full of dangers and risks. And we may not be able to finish all of them successfully. Nevertheless, for people, what matters is not if you get to the top, but wether or not you find yourself and have faith in yourself. People can arrive at the Cold Mountain if they strongly believe that the Cold Mountain exists and keep looking for it. Where is the Cold Mountain? It is in your heart if you truly believe in it.

Works Cited

Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. New York: Grove, 1997. Print.

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