Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 25 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Edwin immediately shoots down Cole’s insistence that Peter come to the island. Cole argues that Peter needs to see the Spirit Bear, soak, and carry the ancestor rock. He suggests that Edwin stay with them, but Edwin can’t. Cole knows Peter is scared of him and thinks Cole will come back to get him, but Peter needs to come here and see that change is possible. Edwin wants to know how much Cole has changed, but Cole is tired of trying to prove himself. He insists that they can either give Peter the chance to come here or watch him kill himself. Cole suggests that Garvey come, but Edwin counters that Cole isn’t the most important thing in the world. Cole insists that this is about Peter, not him. Edwin softly says that Cole has changed and that he and Garvey are proud of him.
After Cole’s own positive experiences with Edwin’s rituals, he believes that they can help everyone—even Peter. As far as Cole is concerned, Edwin of all people should understand this, since they’re his rituals. However, Edwin’s job is still to make sure that Cole is getting as much out of this experience as possible, and that does mean making sure Cole understands that people can’t just drop everything to do what he wants them to do. Garvey has a life of his own—hanging out on an island with two boys might not be on his to-do list.
Themes
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Before Edwin leaves, he asks if Cole would stay on the island longer in order to help Peter. Cole insists he’ll stay as long as it takes. In the following days, Cole spends much of his time standing by his totem pole, trying to figure out how to represent his anger, forgiveness, and healing. One day, Cole hears two boat engines getting closer. He sees Edwin’s small boat and a fishing trawler. Edwin is in his boat; Garvey, Mr. and Mrs. Driscal, and Peter are on the trawler. Peter stares at his knees, terrified, and refuses to get out of the boat. Cole greets Peter, but he walks farther away at Garvey’s prodding.
By insisting upon staying on the island until he can help Peter, Cole commits to paying forward what he’s learned. At this point, Cole understands that his own transformation matters little. What matters is doing something—anything—to keep Peter alive and help him heal. The fact that Peter does indeed come speaks to how dire this situation is—Peter and his parents have seemingly run out of options.
Themes
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Once everyone is ashore, Edwin leads them to the fire pit and starts a fire. Peter pulls a hunk of driftwood away from the group to sit by himself. When the fire is blazing, Edwin explains that Garvey will stay with Cole and Peter. Mr. Driscal tells Cole forcefully that he and Mrs. Driscal are staying long enough to make sure Peter is safe. Cole promises to never hurt anyone again. Edwin makes it clear that they’re here because Cole was thoughtless and cruel, and then he asks Cole to tell everyone his story of his time on the island. Peter exhibits no interest, but his parents do.
Peter’s behavior is entirely understandable. He’s deeply depressed, and now he’s on the island with the person who caused him so much pain and who probably scares him more than anything else. Peter feels terrified, powerless, and victimized—in many ways, he feels exactly how Cole did when he ended up on the island the first time. It’s telling that Cole doesn’t interject when Edwin drives home that all of this is Cole’s fault. Now, he knows he must take responsibility for his actions.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole tells everyone his entire story, from the Spirit Bear mauling him to his his return to the island and his discovery of rituals. Cole explains how he dances and shows everyone his totem pole. Though Cole tries to evade Garvey’s questions about the empty space at the bottom, Edwin tells Cole to tell the truth. Cole says that his dad beats him, but he knows that his dad didn’t mean to hurt him—violence was all he knew. Cole says he learned to forgive, and he knows now that he can’t heal until he helps Peter heal. Peter spits that he doesn’t want Cole’s help.
Garvey forces Cole to talk about the cycle of violence and to make it clear that the only way to break the cycle is to forgive. Though Peter is turning the violence on himself and not someone else (as Cole and his dad did), Peter is still part of the cycle—and like Cole, he’ll need to learn forgiveness in order to break it.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
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