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Cold Mountain

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In Cold Mountain, a novel by Charles Frazier, birds play a very important role. They are significant symbols and metaphors and each of the characters view them in different ways. Throughout the book, Frazier introduces us to several types of birds, such as pigeons, buzzards, herons and martins; however, the crow is a constant. Birds are related to sadness, darkness, fear, danger, but they are also associated with beauty, freedom and liberty. While I was reading the book, I thought about all the ideas that are reflected and I began to see birds and especially crows, with different eyes. I find interesting the way Frazier described them and the relation between birds and the characters.
Some people, even nowadays, see crows as creatures of darkness and sadness. In countries like Spain, there are tales about crows. Those stories say that when crows are seen, it means that something bad will happen in town or to the person who noticed the birds. I don’t really believe that, but those stories are still in my mind and whenever I see a crow, I remember their message. Reading Cold Mountain made me see crows as creatures to be admired instead of to be scared of. Each of the characters show a different opinion about crows, but I agree more with Ruby’s. She admires crows, as well as their spirit of survival and she respects them, too. "When three crows carried a hawk across the sky, Ruby expressed her great respect for the normally reviled crow, finding much worthy of emulation in their outlook on life. She noted with disapproval that many a bird would rather die than eat any but food it relishes. Crows will relish what presents itself. She admired their keenness of wit, lack of pridefulness, love of practical jokes, and slyness in a fight. All of these she saw as a making up the genius of crow, which was a kind of willed mastery over what she assumed was a natural inclination toward bile and melancholy, as evidenced by its drear plumage” (137). I had never seen crows in that way before, but thanks to Ruby, that has changed.

Inman shows several views about crows during his journey. First, he presents them as creatures related to death and sadness, but when he is closer to Cold Mountain, his feelings about crows change. That fact, the connection among emotions and the way people see nature, amazed me throughout the entire novel. Inman’s willingness to become one of the crows in the sky in order to get liberty, surprised me. “And when his eyes were closed, he dreamed he lived in a kind of world where if a man wished it he could think himself into a crow form, so that though filled with dark error, he still had power either to fly from his enemies or laugh them away” (235). Men have always been fascinated with the idea to flight, that’s why it wasn’t a surprise discovering that Inman wanted to have wings. The big surprise for me, was that he wanted to become a crow. He could have chosen any other kind of bird, but he decided to choose a crow instead, despite the fact he had seen them as creatures of death and darkness back at the beginning of his journey.

Nature and birds are described by Frazier with many details, carefulness and respect, which made the book even more appealing for me. His words melted in my mouth and had a wonderful taste as I was passing from one page to another one. I could clearly see the crows in the sky, the mountains covered by a white sea of snow, the river, the big moon, the martins flying, Venus observing Ada and Inman at night… One of the descriptions I liked the most was the one about the heron. The heron was shown as a wonderful and beautiful bird, with big wings that open and move as a machine. Both Ada and Ruby have a different perception of the heron; Ada’s could be said to be more poetic and romantic, while Ruby’s is the realistic one. Ada compares the heron with Narcissus, because of his staring at the water of the river. From now on, I will remember Ada’s statement whenever I see a bird similar to a heron. The personification of the bird made me go back to my Latin classes and the days we spent talking about mythology, one of my passions. Of course, the heron’s nature is looking for food to eat, as Ruby tells to Ada, but I still feel more attached to Ada’s explanation.

From a very young age, I was amazed about nature and I enjoyed observing birds and other kind of animals. Cold Mountain let me go back to those days looking through the window or going for walks in the woods. As many other children, I also dreamed about being able to fly and Inman made me think about it again. With wings I would be able to travel all over the world and see from the sky the magic of places like Cold Mountain. Without a doubt, Charles Frazier’s novel was one of the best books I have ever read. Thanks to his book I rediscovered nature and thought about birds in a different way, as creatures with humanity and emotions.





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