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Literature / Cold Mountain

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A 1997 novel by Charles Frazier (made into a film in 2003 directed by Anthony Minghella and starring Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, and Jude Law) which tells the story of Ada Monroe, who moves from Charleston to rural Cold Mountain with her aging (and ailing) father for his health, and W.P. Inman, a terse but goodhearted young man. Just as Ada and Inman seem to be developing a relationship, Inman leaves to fight for the Confederate Army and, after being wounded in battle, decides to desert and walk through often hostile territory to get back home to Ada. Meanwhile, Ada's father has died and she must learn how to survive on her own.

So, as Inman is Walking the Earth to return to Ada, frequently encountering the worst and the downright bizarre of human nature, Ada learns slowly how to manage a farm with the blunt assistance of Ruby, a no-nonsense country girl, whose own drunk layabout father drops in from time to time.


Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Stobrod, along with (and probably because of) being an Alcoholic Parent. In the film, Ruby asserts that he regularly beat her, and he doesn't deny it. In the book, however, Stobrod asserts that he never hurt Ruby once — but he neglected her to an abusive extent, anyway.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Stobrod first appears during the battle of the Crater, playing music for a friend of Inman's before he dies when in the book he isn't mentioned until well after that point and doesn't physically appear until later still.
    • In the book, Georgia only gets taken in by Stobrod and Pangle shortly before the events of the chapter where the home guard catch them, making his existence kind of a Deus ex Machina. In the film, he's present with them from the beginning.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Ada and Ruby are both brunettes in the book and blonde in the movie.
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  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While still a sympathetic character in the book, Georgia is a bit edgier, has a Self-Serving Memory, and bargains for food and shelter before telling Ada and Ruby where to find and bury Stobrod and Pangle, and then refuses to accompany them out of fear. However in the film, due to his Adaptational Early Appearance making him a more established acquaintance of the main characters, he tells them what they want to know quicker, was willing to guide them back but is told to stay behind due to being half-frozen and malnourished and out of fear that another excursion into the snow would kill him, and in a deleted scene where he meets Inman, lacks the Self-Serving Memory. On the flip side, however, in the book he's never tortured by Teague into revealing where to find Ada and Ruby, although it wasn't really his fault that he cracked.
  • Age Lift: Georgia is a sixteen year-old conscript in the book, but played by 28-year-old Jack White in the film, although this could also be a case of Dawson Casting.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Ruby is described as being dark-skinned, with a broad nose and hair the texture of a horse's mane. Whether this is due to mixed racial heritage, or simply her rough outdoors life, is up to interpretation. If she's mixed-race, it certainly would help explain why she can't get a job with anyone but a desperate city slicker.
  • Artistic Lincense History: The film depicts the explosion that preceded the Battle of the Crater as occurring in broad daylight. In real life, it happened before 5 am when it was still dark out.
  • Babies Ever After: At the end of the film Ada has a baby and Ruby and Georgia have kids.
  • Badass Boast: In a deleted scene from the film, after Inman finally arrives at the farm, only to find Ada and Ruby gone going to bury Stobrod -who turns out to be Not Quite Dead- and Pangle. Georgia offers to give Inman directions to find Ada and Ruby, but warns him that it's a long walk. Inman replies "I've been on a long walk."
  • Big Beautiful Woman: One of the sisters that beds Veasey is a heavy-set woman and along with her thinner sisters, is praised as examples of fine specimens of women.
  • Big "NO!": Ada when Inman stumbles back after killing Boisie, amid crows.
  • Blood from the Mouth: When Inman is shot at the end.
  • Bullet Holes and Revelations: When Boisie and Inman face off at the end. Twice, first Boisie is shown dead, then Inman mortally wounded.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ruby doesn't hesitate to tell Stobrod what an abusive father he was and that she isn't happy to see him.
  • The Cast Showoff: Jack White as Georgia gets to do some singing.
  • Chocolate Baby: In the book, Junior complains that his wife delivered a chocolate baby to him after they'd been married a year.
  • *Click* Hello: Inman makes his presence known to Veasey by drawing his pistol on him while the latter attempts to drown his mistress.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Torture on short notice is Teague and the Home Guard's specialty.
  • Daddy's Girl: Ada
  • Dangerous Deserter: The three Union soldiers at Sara's cabin (assuming they are in fact deserters). Averted with all of the Confederate deserters, who get a Defector from Decadence treatment.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Ada indulges in "the easement of maiden, spinster, and widow," and, being the daughter of a minister, feels suitably guilty over it. After checking with a female relative who tells her basically everyone does it, she doesn't feel quite so bad.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the book, the Ferry Girl sticks around for several pages, gets a little speech describing her sense of Small Town Boredom, and survives the Home Guard firing on her boat. In the film, she is shot out of the boat after a minute and twenty seconds of screen-time.
  • Determined Widow: Sarah and Ada.
  • Death by Sex: If the clothes come off, something bad is about to happen to somebody.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Inman dies in Ada's arms.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ruby, Inman, and Ada. Ada's dies, but Ruby's comes back. Inman himself becomes one for Ada's child when he is killed by Boisie.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Boisie manages to escape the initial encounter with Inman where Captain Teague gets killed. Inman pursues him on horseback and they face off in a Quick Draw duel where they kill each other.
  • Easily Forgiven: A rare version where the one doing the forgiving is the scummier of the pair. Veasey is exposed for his hypocrisy and attempted murder to the people who knew him by Inman, getting him ran out of town and disgraced, yet when he tracks down Inman he makes no attempt to get revenge and they become an Odd Couple, traveling towards Cold Mountain together.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: Hinted at with the girl running the ferry boat, who says that she doesn't belong to a church and "the devil rules the roost around here", likely a reference to the tyranny of the Home Guard and their like.
  • Food Porn: The food the characters eat is always described in great detail in the novel.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Ada and Inman both admit they haven't interacted much.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: When Ada asks Inman about his journey back home, he replies with an uncomfortable, vague description which skips over most of it. And given his death, he wouldn't have been able to reveal more later.
  • Greek Mythology: While not directly referencing the epic, the story closely follows that of The Odyssey, with the setting, context and names changed. In the book, Ada reads to Ruby from The Odyssey, and Ruby likes it, but thinks that Odysseus might be a bit less honest and more wily than the epic lets on.
  • The Hero Dies: Inman himself at the end.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Ada at the end.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ruby and Ada eventually turn into this. In the final, they're still working together with their children and Ruby's husband.
  • Honor Before Reason: Blount, a Hopeless Suitor to Ada before she moved to Cold Mountain, died in the battle of Gettysburg, walking backwards during the retreat because he was terrified of the disgrace of being shot In the Back.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Inman briefly encounters one serving as a bareback rider with a show of Romani travelers who he briefly has a meal with in the book.
  • Hypocrite: Veasey. He's a priest and repeatedly lectures people about doing things the godly way, yet, while engaged, impregnated a woman out of wedlock, attempted to drown her, and repeatedly messes around with other women throughout the rest of his time in the book, not including all of the other underhanded stuff he does.
    • Sarah. She expresses a disgust for senseless violence and says that she wishes all guns and other weapons would disappear, but she shoots Nym in the back out of spite without hesitation, in spite of the fact the unlike the other two Union soldiers he didn't attempt to rape her, and he actually helped her baby when he had the opportunity.
  • Incoming Ham: "That cow wants milking. If that letter ain't urgent, the cow is -- is what I'm saying."
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Ada, more so in the novel than the film. This is gradually subverted over the course of her friendship with Ruby, who is Book Dumb, but very observant, and knowledgeable about aspects of the world that mystify Ada. Sometimes, this even extends to her relationship with Inman, who is confused and upset when Ada shields herself with upper-class manners out of pure habit.
  • I Will Fight No More Forever: Inman uses this as an explanation for why he's willing to let Boisie go instead of just shooting him which ultimately results in both of their deaths when Boisie refuses to back down.
  • I Will Wait for You: Ada remains faithfully waiting for Inman to come back and doesn't take up with anyone else.
  • Karma Houdini: Junior gets no comeuppance for turning Inman and Veasey in.
  • Kick the Dog: Captain Teague and his gang have too many cases of senseless murder and torture to count, all under the flimsy excuse of punishing deserters and those who aid them. Perhaps the worst instance was their murder of Pangle, a mentally retarded musician who didn't even have the capacity to understand what was happening to him and why.
  • Large Ham: Ruby, and her larger-than-life demeanor is enhanced by mostly sharing screentime with the calm and composed Ada.
  • The Lost Lenore: Odell, a man Inman and Veasey spend some time with in the novel, is the son of a plantation owner who fell in love with one of his father's slaves, only for his father to sell her when he found out, causing Odell to become an abolitionist, and depart on a so far futile search for her. The story resonates a little for Inman, with his own long journey back to a woman he loved.
  • Mama Bear: Inverted and played Straight with Sally Swanger and her sons who run out of their hiding place to defend their elderly mother from the Home Guard and get killed for their troubles, even while dreading for her life, Sally tries to signal her sons not to come rescue her.
  • Marshmallow Hell: Done to Inman by a black woman.
  • Missing Mom: Ada's, Inman's, and presumably Ruby's mothers are all dead.
  • Mutual Kill: Inman and Boisie shoot each other dead, though Inman takes a little longer to die.
  • Named by the Adaptation:
    • Acton and Ellis Swanger, the sons of Ada's neighbors. Also Ascended Extra, as they were only mentioned briefly in the book, but have a small subplot in the film which, given that it ends in Death By Adaption for them and their father, isn't exactly a good thing for them.
    • Averted with Georgia, who is revealed to be named Reid in the novel, with this never being mentioned in the film.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: In the book, Stobrod and Pangle's run-in with the home guard comes while they're escorting Georgia to the state line, to show him the way back home, even though Stobrod dislikes that area.
    Stobrod: If I had a brother in jail, and a brother in Georgia, I'd bust the one in Georgia out first.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: Inman and Ada are about to have Their First Time and she begins to undress and shyly asks him if to turn his back and he does for a moment, but then changes his mind and turns and tells her he won't while looking at her in the eye. She begins to smile and the scene cuts to them post-coital.
  • Not Good with People: Sally Swanger remarks that Inman normally "wouldn't say boo to a goose."
  • Now or Never Kiss: Inman's about to head to war, so he plants one on Ada despite having only spoken with her a few times.
  • Off with His Head!: Ruby decapitates an annoying rooster with her bare hands.
  • Oh, Crap!: Swanger at the end of the confrontation with the Home Guard, right before they kill him. He only has one shot in his gun (which the leader of the Home Guard already pointed out to him), so when they start distracting him and closing in, he points his gun from one to the other but is clearly afraid to fire his one shot even though he knows trying to bluff them isn't working. For all the good it did him, the gun may as well have been unloaded.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Ada, having been taken care of all her life, has no idea what to do when her father dies.
  • Oscar Bait: An epic historical drama, based on a bestselling book which was in turn based on the letters passed between the author's ancestors, featuring death, racism, and philosophical musings... nominated for seven Oscars and won for Best Supporting Actress (Renée Zellweger as Ruby.)
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Poor Sally Swanger, Home Guard finds out that she and her husband are harboring their deserter sons in secret, kills her husband, tortures Sally to lure her sons out in her defense, and executes them.
  • Plucky Girl: Ruby is this Up to Eleven, having had to fend for herself virtually all her life. Ada becomes one of these.
    • While more of a bit character, the same is also true of the ferry girl, especially in the book.
  • Proper Lady: Ada was raised as one, but unfortunately once the war hits and her father passes, she finds herself frustrated that none of her 'ladylike' skills help her manage on the farm.
    Ada: I can embroider, but I can't darn! I can arrange cut flowers, but I can't grow them! If a thing has a function, if I might do something with it, then it wasn't considered suitable!
  • Psycho for Hire: Teague and all his men relish violence and take solace in being paid and protected to do it.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Boisie is shown hopping up and down and whistling on top of a fence... while nailing Mrs. Swanger's hands under the planks of said fence.
  • Race Lift: In the book, Georgia is described as being part Cherokee or Creek Indian. The movie has him played by the European American Jack White.
    • The Ambiguously Brown Ruby, who is noted to have dark hair and facial features, is played by the very fair (of hair and skin) Renee Zellweger.
  • Secret Stab Wound: After Boisie falls from his saddle dead Inman reveals that he also has been mortally wounded.
  • Self-Serving Memory: In the book, Georgia tells Inman a wildly exaggerated version of the home guard capturing and shooting Stored and Pangle. That makes his survival sound heroic instead of just lucky. The film averts this when, in a deleted scene, Georgia does give an accurate story about what happened.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Inman is troubled and a bit edgy due to his war experiences.
  • Shown Their Work: Principally in regard to dramatizing The Battle of the Crater.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: A subversion: Papa Monroe buys a farm in the South basically as a hobby to pass the time while he works on writing. But when he dies, Ada can't find anyone to buy the land, and would starve were it not for Ruby's help, and the work never ends. In the book, Ada wearily suggests that they'll rest when snowbound in winter, whereupon Ruby promptly lists out ten tasks for that season alone.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Inman deserts after being shot in the neck and receiving Ada's letter asking him to come back to her.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Veasey is not only an adulterer, but he almost drowns a slave woman who is pregnant with his illegitimate child.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Ruby, Ada, and Sarah all carry shotguns or rifles for hunting and/or self-defense, compared to Inman and his standard-issue military pistol.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Ada's night with Inman produced a daughter named Grace.
  • Snow Means Death: Inman's final confrontation with the Home Guard takes place on a snowy day.
  • Southern Belle: Ada is a somewhat sheltered, well-dressed southern woman..
  • Toilet Humor: Veasey complaining about constipation ("Used to be as regular as morning prayers. Matter of fact I could set my watch by my bowels.") and eventually cheering incoming defecation.
  • Token Good Teammate: Bardolph (Cillian Murphy) is the only one of the three Union soldiers who doesn't try to rape Sarah, opting to help her baby instead. Doesn't stop Sarah from putting a bullet in his back.
    • Also one of Junior's family members who gives Inman back his picture of Ada as he's being taken away.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tsundere Ruby who chokes a nasty rooster and the delicate, Proper Lady Ada, respectively.
  • Tsundere: Ruby. She's brash, if not quite a Jerkass, and pretends not to care about Georgia or her father but is really quite a softie.
  • Uncertain Doom:
    • In the book, although not in the film, when Teague and his men encounter Stobrod and Pangle on their way to hunt down another group of deserters hiding in the nearby caves. When they reappear for the final battle, one of the deserters is accompanying his group, having apparently undergone a Face–Heel Turn. It is unclear if the others were wiped out, but it's likely that at least some fell to the Home Guard's guns.
    • In the film, although not the book, Ingram spots a large group of escaped slaves in a field. They go down a road and a few seconds later there's shooting and screaming and Ingram has to run himself to avoid some Home Guard men riding that way. It's unclear all of the scapes slaves were killed, some were shot and others just recaptured, or some of them might have managed to escape while the others were being shot and/or recaptured.
  • Unrelated in the Adaptation: Possibly. In the novel it's briefly mentioned that Pangle might be a relative of the Swanger's, but has been living alone in the woods for most of his life, and can't remember if he's part of the Swanger or Pangle family, with Stobrod deciding he has more of a Pangle look to him. This is cut from the movie, where instead of being a hermit Stobrod encountered, Pangle is apparently a fellow deserter.
  • Voiceover Letter: opens the film.
  • Young Gun: Boise is a villainous example.