Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A strange man announces that they can’t get a plane out to take Cole to Ketchikan until morning due to the weather. Edwin introduces the Tlingit nurse as Rosey, the best and only nurse in Drake. When Cole shivers, Garvey passes Rosey the at.óow. Rosey rejects it because it’s wet, but Cole grabs at it. He then grabs Garvey’s arm. Garvey assures Cole that he’s not leaving and says they can talk later. Rosey gives Cole medication and an IV while Garvey spoons broth into Cole’s mouth. Cole watches Rosey work on him as though there’s nothing else she’d rather do.
Though Edwin is around, Garvey is the person Cole knows best out of this crew of helpers. Thus, Cole clings to Garvey—and to the at.óow, their symbol of trust and friendship—as he’s the one person who has been there for Cole from the beginning. Garvey’s willingness to help Cole speaks to his own selflessness: he understands that it’s his responsibility to do everything he can to help Cole, even if Cole has been a jerk to him in the past.
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Garvey remarks that the bear did a lot of damage and apologizes to Cole, but Cole whispers that it was his fault. Garvey and Edwin exchange a glance, and then Cole closes his eyes. Rosey returns with bandages to clean up Cole’s open wounds, marveling that Cole is able to talk given the severity of his injuries. She suggests that he’s tough, but Garvey whispers that Cole isn’t as tough as he thinks he is. Edwin murmurs that Cole will be okay if he can find a reason to live. Cole falls sleeps and dreams that everyone in his life steps forward to help him in some way. Cole likes using people in this way—but suddenly, lightning strikes and everyone turns into a monster. They shout at Cole and tell him that he’s nothing.
It’s shocking for Garvey and Edwin to hear that Cole thinks what happened is his fault—he’s likely never uttered those words before in his life. Even if Circle Justice doesn’t aim to put its participants in danger, this suggests that major traumatic events like what Cole experienced can help jolt a person into understanding the value of life and the importance of taking responsibility for their actions. If Cole had remained focused on blaming the bear, he would’ve been too angry to focus on surviving.
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Cole wakes and reaches out, calling hoarsely for Garvey. Garvey turns on the light, and Rosey rushes in. Cole tells them about his dream, and both Rosey and Garvey assure Cole that they’re not monsters. Cole asks why they’re helping him, and Rosey shrugs that it’s not worth living if she can’t help. Garvey insists that they’re friends, but Cole frustratedly says that this isn’t true. Garvey admits he helped Cole for his own reasons. When Cole starts to accuse Garvey of not caring about him, Garvey interrupts and points out that he helped Cole to help himself. He explains that he spent five years in prison since there was no one to take him through Circle Justice. Rosey tells Cole that his body will heal, but he can only heal his spirit by helping others.
Both Rosey and Garvey make the point that it’s unfulfilling to live a selfish life. Rather, the only way to be happy in life is to help others. This is a foreign concept to Cole, as he’s never had reason to trust anyone tasked with helping him—he’s never had role models like Garvey before. When Garvey shares his own story of not getting to go through Circle Justice, he reiterates that jail isn’t a great way to heal—all it does is punish, and those scars last forever.
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Related Quotes
When Cole insists that people want to hurt him, Rosey assures Cole that those people need his help. She gives Cole another shot for the pain, but says she can’t give him anything to “take away the monsters”—only Cole can make them go away. When Cole wakes up in the morning, Rosey gives him another painkiller and brings a bag of Cole’s clothes with the at.óow on the top. Edwin arrives with two boys Cole’s age to help carry Cole to a van, which takes him to the marina. When Rosey leaves to fetch something, Edwin asks Cole what happened. Cole hesitantly tells Edwin and Garvey everything. Garvey points out that Cole might never use his arm again, but Cole insists that it isn’t important—a parole officer once told him that if he likes the cake, the ingredients in it might be okay.
Rosey makes the case that Cole isn’t shut out of helping people just because they don’t want his help. The people in Cole’s life aren’t “monsters,” and it’s his responsibility to show those people (presumably, Peter and his family) how much he’s changed and do what he can to help them heal. Meanwhile, it’s significant that Cole tells Edwin and Garvey the truth about what happened to him on the island. That he no longer feels the need to lie speaks to his newfound recognition that he can’t expect people to help him if he keeps betraying their trust.
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Garvey incredulously says that he also let a bear maul Cole, and now, Cole still has to deal with his parents and jail time. Cole says that whatever happens, he’s done being angry, but Edwin insists that anger doesn’t disappear—it just lessens. He asks about the Spirit Bear. Cole says that the last time it came, it stood over him and let him touch it. Edwin insists that his family has been here for generations and has never seen a Spirit Bear—the animal might only exist in Cole’s mind.
Though Cole’s insistence that he’s done being angry is commendable, Edwin insists that it’s impossible to entirely get rid of one’s feelings. It’s important to feel a full range of emotions in order to live a fulfilling, healthy life. Edwin has no reason to trust that Cole is telling the truth, given how much Cole has lied—now, Cole has to deal with the consequences of his dishonesty.
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Cole starts to argue and reaches for his pants to pull out the hair, but then realizes that he’s never been strong enough to just tell the truth. He insists he’s telling the truth. Edwin and Garvey step away and once he’s alone, Cole pulls the white fur out of his pants pocket. Cole vows to himself that starting today, he’ll tell the truth. He tosses the fur in the water but knows he’ll never forget the Spirit Bear.
Cole has no way of knowing whether or not Garvey and Edwin will ever believe him. He’s lied so much that it’s possible they never will—but if Cole starts telling the truth now, especially in situations where it’s easy to verify, he may start to earn their trust.
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