Beartown

Bears Symbol Icon

Bears are a multifaceted symbol in Beartown. On the one hand, they represent the small, hardscrabble town’s resilience and determination despite a declining economy. Because hockey is the town’s pride and joy, young players who show promise are said to “have the bear in them”—a fierce work ethic and a refusal to accept anything less than victory. On the other hand, there’s also a darker side to the “bear” ferocity. This is seen most glaringly when hockey star Kevin Erdahl refuses to hear “no” from Maya Andersson and sexually assaults her; then, when Maya reveals what Kevin did, most of the town turns against her. It’s also apparent in the violence of The Pack, a group of angry young fans who physically intimidate other teams and anyone else who threatens the Bears’ dominance. Overall, bears represent the idea of immense strength that, if unchecked, can turn toxic and dangerous.

Bears Quotes in Beartown

The Beartown quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bears. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Beartown published in 2017.
Chapter 10 Quotes

One of the plainest truths about both towns and individuals is that they usually don’t turn into what we tell them to be, but what they are told they are. The teacher has always been told she’s too young for this. Too attractive. That they won’t respect her. Those boys have been told that they’re bears, winners, immortal.

Hockey wants them that way. Needs them that way. Their coach teaches them to go hard into close combat on the ice. No one stops to think about how to switch that attitude off when they leave the locker room. It’s easier to pin the blame on her: She’s too young. Too attractive. Too easily offended. Too difficult to respect.

Related Characters: Jeannette
Related Symbols: Bears
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

Amat bounces around between the hugs and pats on the back, and hears himself join in a shouted rendition of “WE ARE THE BEARS FROM BEARTOWN!” so loudly that his chest stings, and he hears the others singing louder because he does, because they want to feel that they’re participating in what he represents now.

The rush lifts him up, his endorphins are bubbling, and afterward he will remember thinking: “How can anyone possibly experience this without thinking he’s a god?”

Related Characters: Amat (speaker)
Related Symbols: Bears
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 50 Quotes

None of them sees the first skate of the child who’s the last one out. She’s four years old, a scrawny little kid in gloves that are too big for her, with bruises everyone sees but nobody asks about. Her helmet slips down across her eyes, but the look in them is clear enough.

Adri and Sune come after her, ready to hold the girl up, until they realize that there’s no need. The four boys at the center circle will build a new A-team next season, but that doesn’t matter, because in ten years’ time it won’t be their names that make the people of this town stand taller.

And they’ll all lie and say they were here and saw it happen. The first skate of the girl who will become the most talented player this club has ever seen. They’ll all say they knew it even then.

Related Symbols: Bears, Cherry Blossoms
Page Number: 415
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Bears Symbol Timeline in Beartown

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bears appears in Beartown. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
...He was carried home, sobbing, with frostbite. The whole town recognized that Kevin “had the bear inside him. That sort of thing can’t be ignored.” (full context)
Chapter 10
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
...that her students won’t respect her. Her hockey-playing students have always been told “that they’re bears, winners, immortal.” That’s what they have to be in order to win on the ice.... (full context)
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
...cheeks!” Before too long, the classroom has descended into a chant of “We are the bears from Beartown,” with the hockey players standing bare-chested on their desks—except for Kevin, who’s calmly... (full context)
Chapter 11
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...he almost gave up hockey altogether. But Fatima told him, “You might be playing with bears. But that doesn’t mean you have to forget that you’re a lion.” Later that morning,... (full context)
Chapter 13
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...at the last second, then shoots and scores a goal. He is “a lion among bears.” (full context)
Chapter 19
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...and pats on the back. Pretty soon, he’s swept up in shouting “We are the bears from Beartown!” and others sing along, following his lead. Later, Amat wonders how anyone could... (full context)
Chapter 29
Community Breakdown and Inequality Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...a broken coffee cup. Among the shattered pieces can be seen the image of a bear. (full context)
Chapter 32
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...and retreats to his own locker room, from which crazed shouts of “We are the bears!” can be heard. They try to laugh Benji off as a “head case,” but they’re... (full context)
Chapter 33
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...hospital, she goes straight to sleep; she’s always coped with pain that way. Meanwhile, the Bears are fighting as hard as they can. Amat blocks shot after shot with his helmet.... (full context)
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
The Bears’s locker room is crushed and silent. Eventually, David appears with a bag full of pucks.... (full context)
Chapter 36
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...helps Maya clean up. When Maya asks why, Leo says, “Because […] we aren’t the bears from Beartown.” (full context)
Chapter 39
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
...new skates and tells him the team needs to stick together. He growls like a bear and drives off. (full context)
Chapter 40
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Loyalty and Belonging Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...so he’ll move for her. Kira notices that Peter has taken his keys off the bear-shaped key ring he’s always used. (full context)
Chapter 50
Culture, Character, and Entitlement Theme Icon
Resistance and Courage Theme Icon
...has ever seen.” Everybody will claim they knew it all along, “because people recognize the bear around here,” and “cherry trees always smell of cherry trees.” (full context)