Beartown

Beartown Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Maya drinks a lot of shots with Lyt and Kevin. Maya is fascinated by the way Kevin seems to live on instinct. Kevin is fascinated by the way Maya seems to know exactly who she is. Each of them wishes they could be like the other. Ana stops drinking quickly. She’s disappointed that Benji has left, and she feels that no matter how hard she tries to “sandpaper” herself, she’s never going to fit in with this crowd.
Maya and Kevin have a strong mutual interest at this point. Ana, feeling left out and at loose ends, realizes she doesn’t really belong to Beartown’s popular set, no matter how hard she tries. Her choice of the word “sandpaper” also shows how fitting in can be a painful, arduous process.
Themes
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Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
Benji smokes in the middle of the lake for a while. The ice is getting thin at this time of year, but he’s never been afraid of falling through. After Alan’s death, he hasn’t feared death himself, but has always wondered why his dad used a rifle when the natural environment can do so much to kill a person. Once Benji feels numb, he steals a moped and drives to Hed.
After the party, Benji feels hurt and alienated from Kevin. Benji’s reaction suggests that he believes Kevin is better than the party culture he’s taking part in, and that he doesn’t belong in it himself. When Benji feels hurt, he tends to become self-destructive. Again, it’s clear that hockey culture creates as many problems as it solves, even for members of a winning team.
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Benji winds up at the bar where his sister Katia works, The Barn. Katia can see that Benji is in a bad mood. He usually comes here when he’s feeling upset.  Katia lets Benji tend bar while she goes back to the office, promising that the bouncers will take care of the moped for him. As Benji drinks a beer, he notices the bass player in the band that’s playing onstage.
Even Benji’s family sometimes enables his self-destructive habits. Meanwhile, Benji’s interest in the bass player is the novel’s first hint regarding his sexuality. After feeling left out at the party, he’s looking for somewhere else to belong.
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Back at the party, when Ana comes out of the bathroom, Lyt towers over her, saying drunkenly, “I got an assist today, don’t I get anything for that?” Ana manages to slip past him and runs toward the kitchen, searching for Maya.
Lyt openly assumes that because he was successful on the ice tonight, he’s entitled to sex—it's a somewhat shocking example of how on-ice aggression translates to off-ice entitlement. It turns out that this isn’t the most brazen behavior of the night, however.
Themes
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The bass player comes to the bar, and he and Benji talk a little. He tells Benji he’s more interested in something smoking than in alcohol, and he’s heard Benji could help him with that. Pretty soon they’re smoking together out back. Benji doesn’t usually smoke with anyone else. He wishes he were a bit more high, or drunk. When the bass player asks if he’ll come back next Sunday, Benji walks away without giving an answer.
Benji is obviously attracted to the bass player, but he also resists committing himself to anything yet. He has difficulty letting himself experience strong feelings in another person’s presence; he’s used to dealing with his pain in solitude, perhaps fearful of being abandoned again after the loss of his father.
Themes
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Bobo and Amat end up firing shots on the ice rink, since they’re both out of their element in the party. Bobo apologizes for bullying him, and soon they’re just chatting about hockey. They agree that hockey feels like work nowadays—not carefree, like when they were children. As they silently fire pucks, they forge a friendship.
Despite his past bullying of Amat and his friends, Bobo and Amat become friends based on their shared love of the sport. It’s the only fully positive, healthy interaction that occurs in this chapter, and indicates that despite all its flaws, hockey culture does have some positive influences on those involved in it.
Themes
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Maya can’t find Ana, and she’s so drunk she’s leaning on the walls for support. Lyt makes a whispered bet with Kevin—that Kevin will “NEVER get to fuck […] the GM’s daughter.” They shake on a bet of a hundred kronor.
Regardless of how seriously he takes the bet, this exchange says a lot about Kevin’s character. A hundred Swedish kronor comes out to about $10 in U.S. currency; it’s obvious that to players like Kevin and Lyt, women are valuable mostly as sexual objects.
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Later, the only thing people will ask Maya is how much she’d had to drink that night. She’s been circling the house in search of a bathroom when Kevin offers to show her the upstairs. They wind up in his bedroom, where Maya smokes marijuana for the first time. She admires Kevin’s old record player, and he puts some music on. She doesn’t remember what music it is, but years from now, she’ll still remember the crackling sound it made when it was turned on.
Kevin takes advantage of the fact that Maya is drunk. Their interaction starts out pleasantly enough, but in retrospect, it will trigger terrible memories for Maya—a hint that things are about to take a turn for the worse.
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Maya and Kevin are lying on his bed, and they start kissing. But when Kevin starts forcing her jeans down, Maya stops him, saying, “I don’t want to.” “Of course you want to,” he replies. Even when she becomes angry and insistent, he acts as if it’s a game. He starts gripping her wrists painfully.
Even though Maya makes it clear she doesn’t like what Kevin is doing, he doesn’t accept her objection as serious and assumes that he knows better than she does. The fact that he sees her resistance as a game is significant; he sees it as something to be overcome, much as he would an opponent on the ice—not something to be heeded and respected.
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Maya has been warned about sexual assault throughout her life, but she never imagined it could happen with someone she knew and trusted. Kevin touches her body as if it’s “a thing he had earned” and not connected to her. He tells her to stop resisting, since after all, she came upstairs with him. She keeps telling him to stop. He holds her down effortlessly and doesn’t seem to notice when she scratches his hand deeply with her nails. When Maya finally yanks her hand free and slaps him, his face changes, and he grabs her throat. Her mouth is covered, so she can’t even scream, and she slips in and out of consciousness. She remembers odd details, like one of her blouse buttons flying off and landing somewhere that she’ll never find it.
Maya is unprepared for the idea that she could be assaulted in a scenario like this one—in a familiar, ostensibly safe environment. Her thoughts indicate how even the most commonplace parts of life—like hockey—can have dark sides. Kevin continues to act as if her willingness in accompanying him gives him permission to go as far as he would like. Not only that, but her continued resistance doesn’t deter him. It only makes him angry and violent—his attitude of entitlement carried to a terrifying extreme.
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Later, people ask Maya about her consumption of alcohol and marijuana, but nobody asks her about the terror and panic she feels that night and never fully escapes.
Because Kevin’s forcefulness in the previous scene makes him obviously the perpetrator, the questions asked of Maya appear laughable by comparison. Others will rush to blame her for what’s happened, rather than showing compassion for the horrifying experience she’s been through.
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