Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The mouse struggles in Cole’s clamped hand. Cole feels awful for the animal, but he forces it into his mouth. He struggles to bite down on it but finally crushes its head. Cole imagines the baby sparrow as he chews on the mouse and swallows. Exhausted after this, Cole doesn’t fight the mosquitos. He’s not sure how to live at this point. Sensing movement, he opens his eyes and sees that gulls have come to eat his vomit. Cole realizes that the fish chunks he threw up are still energy, so he shoos off the gulls and eats what he can. It begins to rain. Fortunately, the rain cools Cole’s skin. He smears mud on himself and realizes he feels satisfied after feeding himself. Digging up mud made a hole and Cole finds water in it. He lifts water to his mouth.
The simple fact that Cole feels bad for the mouse suggests that he’s developed a lot of empathy just in the last 24 hours. Killing the mouse isn’t just a way to exert his dominance over another living creature. Now, it’s the only way for Cole to stay alive, and thus, the mouse’s death seems like more of a sacrifice than a senseless killing. Eating his own vomit is also a very humbling experience—and as Cole continues to humble himself, he becomes more at peace.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Cole looks out to the bay and sees the mother sea with her pups. He snags two more worms and then hears a twig break. The Spirit Bear is about 20 feet away. It stands stock-still, and Cole stares at it, too afraid to do anything. He wonders if the bear is back to kill him— he knows it could finish the job in an instant, and he decides to go out with the last word. Cole gathers as much saliva as he can and spits at the Spirit Bear, knowing that he’s spitting at the whole world and at his entire life. The spit lands far short of its target, but the bear curiously steps forward.
Now that Cole has begun to humble himself and acknowledge his own powerlessness, he understands that the Spirit Bear could kill him in an instant. However, this doesn’t mean that Cole isn’t still angry at everything and is willing to submit to death, hence why he spits. He’s not yet ready to totally give up on thinking he’s powerful, as dangerous as spitting at a bear might be.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon