Nature plays a major role and has a profound impact on the lives of all organisms; it can be a friend or a foe. From the time a being comes into existence, it almost immediately, becomes aware of the necessary connection with the outside world. The creature begins by exploring all parts of the new surrounding, deciding how it maybe able to cope with the environment, making all the essential adaptations. As the life form grows, it becomes more and more dependent on nature, realizing how important the trees, grass, and even the sky really are. This dependency is also spiritual, one that comes from within, easily determining moods, emotions, actions, and sometimes proving to be an unlikely escape from reality or serving with unthinkable hardships. This intermingling bond, between being and nature, is almost inevitable in all beings. This union is the source of many struggles and conflicts that prove to be a test to the soul.
This reliance, provided by nature, is nowhere else more evident then in writing. Authors take advantage of the daily struggles that are offered by setting to develop magnificent plots and create stunning suspense. This is especially so in the ageless love story, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, which describes the adversities that an outlaw soldier faces on his journey home to the unreachable mountain, where he hopes his love will be waiting. The fictional setting of the ferocious forest calls for developed characters that have courage, endurance, and a deep down sense of fright. The characters conflict and ally with natural forces in their daily struggles with life.
Inman, one of the main characters in the novel, has a unique bond with nature, as he battles with it and then uses it as an internal remedy. He grows dependant on it, as both a mental getaway and a source of survival. In the beginning of the novel, Inman, from the confines of the hospital, looks out the window of his room and drifts into a mental ecstasy. For him, nature is an escape from the hospital environment and the pain of his wounds. He flashes back to his childhood. Inman remembers an incident that occurred when he was a schoolboy, and he threw his hat out of the window of the classroom. He went to retrieve it, running away from the school, and fleeing from all his troubles. In his mind, Inman longs to run away from the cruel world full of blood, killing, and misery. He fantasies about Cold Mountain and his life before the beginning of the war. Mentally, Inman establishes his own survival mechanism, a way to drift away from the images of death that are instilled in his mind. These visions cause him to have a great desire to break away, even at the cost of becoming a fugitive and, ultimately this drives him to find his way home.
Inman’s fantasies could not have prepared him for the grueling journey that he encounters; he has immense struggles with nature. Numerous times, he finds himself at death’s door, but because of his mental will, he perseveres. He stumbles upon nature’s cruelty, with harsh weather, dangerous animals, and poisonous plants. Proving to be a major set back to his expedition, Inman overcomes treacherous rainstorms and bitter blizzards. He has no choice but to continue through whatever nature throws at him. While walking miles upon miles under the nightly sky, Inman is greeted the mysterious hoot of owls and crows that fly over his head. Even though these gloomy animals do not pose an immediate danger, they do create an eerie effect that depresses the deserter. Inman must learn to protect himself from the much more threatening animals that roam the landscape. On one occasion, Inman, for his own safety, is forced to drive an attacking mother bear off a cliff, and, with much discontent, shoot her orphaned cub, which would otherwise not survive. To add to Inman’s own wounds, the run away soldier travels through unknown paths that are infested with poison ivy. The ivy injects more throbbing pain into its already injured victim. In terms of survival, nature is fighting against Inman. He must fend for himself, not only against the Home Guards, but also against the brutality of daily life in his surroundings. This leaves him weary and warn out, which, in turn, brings down his conviction.
As nature wages war on Inman, it also supplies him with many necessities. The lush forest offers protection from enemies, provides him with shelter, and many times furnishes him food. Because of the large territory of the woodlands, Inman can, easily, keep himself hidden by taking unknown paths and hiding the bushes. The forest proves to be the safest place that Inman could be in; every time he travels into town to gather more supplies, he finds himself in danger. Inman has many close encounters with the town folk who try to kill him or capture him. He is also able to find caves and rest under the trees, which give him much needed shelter and a limited opportunity to rest from a countless days of walking. Inman quickly learns how to use the forest for his survival, hunting small animals. He soon finds himself connected with the forest in everyway possible, relying on it to stay alive, becoming a part of it, much like the small animals that he hunts.
In his journey home, the forest eventually becomes his only source of his spiritual feelings. As Inman travels west, he begins to feel liberate from the war, attempting to let loose his horrid memories of blood. With every step, he is able, in his mind, to come closer to his goal, freedom. Therefore, when he is captured by the Home Guards and is forced to travel east, he feels like his life is ending, like he is traveling back in time. When Inman is shot, buried, and left for dead, he becomes one with the ground and his peaceful surroundings. Later, when the wild hogs uncover his body, he is brought back into the outside world, and reminded of the horror that exists. Inman also searches nature for a spiritual connection that would help him find meaning in his life. The dim landscape represents the suffering within his soul. The loneliness of the terrain symbolizes Inman’s feelings within himself.
Inman identifies and envies the crow, a symbol that remains constant and establishes a relationship with all of the characters throughout the novel. He is jealous of this animal’s independence and unconformity to the world that mankind has established. Inman, in a way, also resents bird’s cunning and sneaky ways, as it is able to acquire everything it desires. Moreover, when Inman encounters a woman in the woods and seeks shelter at her camp, he discovers her connection and dependency on all that is around her. He finds fascinating the fact that she lives as a hermit, oblivious to the outside world. Inman soon concludes that be could not be so isolated from the exterior.
Inman is not the only character in the novel that establishes a connection on many levels with nature.
Like Inman, Ada uses nature as an antidote to her problems. She is a cultured young lady who is looking for a sense of direction after the death of her father, whom she had depended on all her life.
She has absolutely no skills to revive her dying farm to provide her with a steady income. In the beginning of the novel, she takes in her surroundings much like a small child. Ada finds comfort in the trees and bushes that invite her to evade from the outside world. Therefore, she often buries herself in the shrubbery, falling asleep in this safety blanket. Other times, she sits under the peach tree, recollecting her time with Inman, her true love. Sitting on the front porch, Ada’s mind escapes into a book or into memories of her father. In nature, she does not seem to realize or even care to realize her problems.
Ada’s prayers are answered and a miracle comes in the form of a girl named Ruby. She is a self- raised orphan who is looking for affection from a troubled childhood. Her approach to nature is more out of necessity than any other means. Because Ruby, from the time she was able to walk, has been dependent on the outside for survival; she is not able to establish a spiritual connection with the landscape. She is aware of the benefits and dangers of the greenery and therefore is able to help revive the failing farm and help Ada get back on her feet.
Their meeting and relationship was truly a blessing to both Ada and Ruby. From each other, the both learn more than they could have ever bargained for, filling in the gap between practical and spiritual knowledge. Ruby teaches Ada how to work hard and the details of the terrain. She shows her that a little sweat can have great rewards, not only physically but also mentally. She realizes that she feels better about herself because she has interacted with nature in a way that she never has before. Ada offers Ruby something that Ruby has never had before, love. Ada presents her with a connection through books and shows Ruby how to see the world in a different light. She gives her affection and Ruby begins to have a strong spiritual bond with that is around her. Ada assures Ruby that it is all right to dream and to build castles in the sky. Together, each one fills each other’s void and both become much more complete.
The bond between man and nature is expected, as both are interlinked with each other. It can provide great mental relief from daily tribulations and anguish. Other times, it can be the greatest adversary that man has to deal with. This bond is necessary for both existence and sanity. Nature determines many aspects of one’s life, even ones of life and death. The conflicts that the environment provides enable man to become stronger and he triumphs or fails at daily struggles.