The narrative techniques that Frazier has used to present the journeys of Inman, Ada and other characters can be seen through flashbacks, premonitions, dreams and the meetings of unexpected people. The key element in this novel is how the two protagonist characters, Inman and Ada, both have their own separate journeys in individual chapters, which interweave during the course of knowing each other in their past and present. However, it is only until the near end of the novel that Inman and Ada are reunited for the first time. Before Inman and Ada are reunited, both characters are constantly in contact with each other through letters, ‘she wet the nib of a pen in ink and wrote: ‘this you must know: that despite your long absence…”, or always thinking bout each other through dreams or premonitions, without being in the presence of each other.
The themes in this novel created by the character’s journeys are romance, loneliness, the opposite, and nostalgia. The romantic theme in this novel allows characters to have feelings and emotions, which creates a connection between the readers and the characters through realism. There is a glimpse of a tragic love story in the sense the lovers are separated (i.e. Inman and Ada) until their reunion. If Inman had decided not to return to the cold mountain to return to Ada, then there would not be a love story; it is only due to their separate journeys and through their unexpected meetings of random strangers such as the goat woman or the blind man allowed for there to be a theme of romance. All of these unexpected meetings have played a role in allowing Inman and Ada to be reunited. For if it weren’t for the blind man to make Inman realize that he does want his old life back at Cold Mountain, where he lived happily with Ada, he might not have started his journey.
If Ada had not looked into a well to have seen a man travelling her way, what was stopping her from leaving? Therefore all these unplanned events that the characters encountered played a role in allowing them to have their journey, allowing us to have a story. The novel is based on romance, and a theme carried on from it is the idea of arrival and survival. Arrival being the reunion of both Inman and Ada and survival related to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. Darwin’s theory can be presented through the character Ruby. Ruby’s mother had died, and her father had been an alcoholic that left her when she was a child. The night Ruby was stuck on a briar in the woods, all alone in the dark, when she was only four years old. She spent a night alone with only nature around her. She learned that nature was a good useful tool and that it could help her.
Ruby has taught herself everything, and all this knowledge has come from nature, therefore in a sense, it is as if nature is teaching her. Ruby started to work on the farm from such a young age, and she learned how to do all the manly jobs like hunting and womanly jobs like keeping the house tidy. Ruby’s personality shows the reader strength, and thereby she can survive and overcome any obstacles that come her way. A few characters in this novel experience nostalgia. Inman, for one, is nostalgic as the reason behind his whole journey is to go back home to the cold mountain where Ada will be. Stobrod experiences nostalgia and therefore returns home to Ruby to make amends. Frazier uses a narrative technique in the novel where oppositions are found. This structures the story so that when the novel starts, Inman’s journey starts, and where the novel ends, Inman’s journey has also ended.
This theme of opposition runs throughout the novel in many ways. With Inman, he goes from sin to redemption when he had been in the civil war and had killed to making a ‘vow to a bear’ never to kill and eat it, from being wounded on the neck from the war to being healed from the goat woman who gives him medicine, from being lonely to finding love in Ada. Ada goes from innocence to maturity; Ada became more independent as she spent more time with Ruby. From having lost Monroe to finding love in Inman and being wounded to being healed in the sense that at the start, she was wounded by a cockerel, and near the end of the novel, she shoots the chickens. It is not only characters who experience the effect of such contrast between two things; it is also seasoned how it goes from warm to cold. This all helps to structure the novel.