In Cold Mountain, what are the possible meanings of the title of the chapter "Ashes of Roses"?
In this chapter, Ada has a flashback where she was at a party, in a new dress that her father had given to her. She caught sight of a woman's back in a mirror, and "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 woman's dress and...the sense of assurance she seemed to evidence in her very posture." She moves, and so does the figure, and she realizes that the image is her own image in a mirror. This new dress, whose color is literally "ashes of roses" is the direct connection to the title of the chapter.
However, ashes of roses also is a symbol for the war, and how it has burnt so many hopes, assurances, beauties, and relationships. Ada's admirable figure in that image above, so beautiful, so assured and full of promise, is reduced to what most of the chapter describes: working a farm with her two bare hands, longing for a lost love, hearing stories of woe from war-torn families. That beautiful potential-the glittering rose-has turned to ashes, and she fights each day to survive. It also represents the lost refugee family that comes through the farm after their house was cruelly burnt by Federals. And, in the end, ashes is all that is left; however, it is not all dire. The beginning of the chapter has Ada and Ruth "plowing and sweetening the dirt with fireplace ashes"-they will grow and build again from the ashes.