It has not only been a trend, but almost a necessity, for novelists who depict wars to depict humanity. Wars are largely, if not totally, alienating; it alienates humans from who they are—or at least whom they think they are—to fighting machines programmed exclusively for mass destruction and ruthless killing. Romantic love and strong sentiment seem to be incompatible with the nature of wars and are rarely found in wars as well. However, in Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier shows us the reshaping of humanity and personality of the male protagonist Inman during the war; he conveys an idea of rebirth in the war—a process of gradually discovering and finally adopting a new, more introspective self-identity; and this journey to rebirth is led by love, courage, and the desire for freedom.
Inman is a wounded soldier recovering in a Confederate military hospital. He may not be much different from millions of soldiers in millions of wars, until he starts to doubt the meaning of the war and decides to get out of it. This is actually the start of his journey to rebirth: by retrieving individual thinking, he differs himself from the mass killing machines in the battle and puts the plan of getting back home into practice; he differs himself from other soldiers who may also be skeptical with the war but never have the courage to start the journey towards home.
Another very important reason for Inman to desert the army is to reunite with Ada, the one he loves, but has to be apart from due to the war. On his way back home, the desire to see his lover again is always supporting him: “Inman was roused from sleep by the song of morning birds. The vision of Ada would not loose its grip on his mind, nor did he wish it to…. Inman was sorry not to have bid them farewell, but he walked all through the day with some brightening of his spirit from the clear dream he had been awarded in the dark of night” (Frazier131-132). Romantic love in the war seems to be a universal theme among tons of war-depicting novels; this is largely because the incompatible conflicting nature between the two. For wars, love is a huge, undesired burden; and for love, war is simply the terminator; novelists tend to combine them together with the individual affection and collective dehumanized ideology to create a tension. Therefore, Inman’s desire to get back with his lover is a signal from Frazier: the stronger the desire is, the closer he is back to a human.
Such strong desire for love brings Inman great courage to overcome difficulties on his dangerous journey, even though the price might be death. In one scene, Inman and his company Veasey are given away to the Home Guard, whose job is to capture war deserters. At that time, he feels the death is so close, and he is afraid that his journey will end like this and he will never meet Ada again. “ Inman hated being sutured up to the others, hated going unarmed, hated most moving retrograde to his desires. Every step east he trod was bitter...