Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Charles Frazier Cold Mountain

Frazier is an American novelist.

Frazier chose a difficult and expansive setting for his debut novel, the 1997 National Book Award-winning Cold Mountain (1997), set in the South and based on a family story about Frazier's great-great-grandfather who deserted during the Civil War. Frazier wrote Cold Mountain by researching the time period and the landscape of the North Carolina mountains, then allowing his knowledge of the natural world and his imagination to fill in the rest. In response, many critics have described Frazier as a natural-born storyteller. Cold Mountain follows Inman, a Confederate soldier wounded in battle who deserts before his injury heals enough to force him back to war, and Ada, the woman he loves and to whom he sets out to return. As the daughter of a minister, Ada lived in genteel Charleston society until her father brought her to the remote mountains of North Carolina to live on a farm into which he put some indifferent effort, but not enough to make it a successful venture. When her father dies, Ada, ignorant of farm management, soon finds herself starving but unwilling to return to city life and dependence upon her father's friends. Help arrives in the form of a local girl named Ruby, who knows everything Ada needs for the farm's and her own survival. As Ada learns of manual labor and daily subsistence, Inman encounters a number of people, both friend and foe, on his way to her. Among them are bounty hunters hoping to return him to the war, a widow and her child whom he saves from Yankee soldiers, and a goat-herding woman who heals his wounds.

Reviewers have made note of the parallels between Cold Mountain and Homer's Odyssey, with Inman as Odysseus journeying home to Ada, his Penelope. Critics have also mentioned Frazier's skill with antiquated language in Cold Mountain, many of them asserting that it contributes to the understanding of the story, slowing the pace and forcing the reader to savor each scene. Additionally, many reviewers have praised Frazier's ability to capture the natural world. Claire Messud stated, "He writes evocatively about the region's flora and fauna and about man's relationship to it."