Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 26 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cole prepares his favorite meal for everyone that night and explains how Garvey taught him that life is a hot dog. He spreads the at.óow on the table to make it a feast. Everyone but Peter eats. Peter blurts out that he’s not sleeping with Cole. Mr. Driscal tries to reassure him, but Cole interrupts that he’ll sleep in a tent. Peter sleeps in the trawler with his parents and refuses to eat his supper. Cole hikes to the pond alone the next morning, shaken by how scared Peter is. He can’t believe he ever wanted people to feel that way. When Cole returns, he finds Edwin and Peter’s parents saying goodbye to Garvey and Peter. Edwin privately explains to Cole that Peter’s parents know now that Cole isn’t the problem, and they understand that they can’t protect Peter from himself.
Even though Cole’s transformation may be obvious to Peter’s parents, that doesn’t mean that Peter is open to forgiving Cole. His fear may blind him to the fact that Cole has changed—and his anger could also be keeping him from seeing what’s in front of him. Cole’s thoughts in the pond reinforce how much he’s changed. Now, he understands that fear traps a person and doesn’t create trust. He recognizes that he cannot scare Peter at all if this is going to work—he has to show Peter trust and kindness, and hopefully, Peter will reciprocate.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Cole remarks sadly that Peter is very afraid, so Edwin advises Cole to be patient. Mr. Driscal asks Cole for a private word. Up near the trees, Mr. Driscal warns Cole that he hasn’t forgotten what Cole did, even if Cole has changed. He doesn’t like the idea of Peter being here, and he warns Cole that if he does anything, Mr. Driscal will make sure Cole goes to jail forever. Cole nods. Back at the cabin, Edwin asks Cole what Mr. Driscal said. Cole insists he just wished Cole a good day and says that he has a right to be angry. Cole stays in the cabin and watches Edwin leave with Peter’s parents. Peter stays by the water.
Crucially, Cole now understands that although anger shouldn’t consume and drive a person, anger is still a normal and expected response to certain situations. This is why he’s so understanding of Mr. Driscal’s anger and distrust—he recognizes that Mr. Driscal is at his wit’s end, but he also doesn’t think he has good reason to trust that Cole is genuine. This understanding is proof that Cole is taking responsibility for his actions and extending empathy and to others.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Garvey returns to the cabin. Cole pulls out a Snickers bar and walks down to Peter. Peter gets up and moves away, terrified, so Cole puts down the candy and returns to the cabin. Cole watches for a while but eventually turns to his math homework. When Cole takes a break, Garvey shares news of Cole’s parents. His mom sends her love, while Cole’s dad has filed a lawsuit to have the abuse charges dropped—and he filed for Cole’s custody. Garvey believes that this is about pride and winning. Cole says quietly that he used to be like that and asks if Garvey thinks his dad will win. Garvey emphatically says no. Cole thanks Garvey for all he’s done and asks how he can repay the kindness. Garvey tells Cole to not give up on Peter. When Cole notices the candy is gone, he that says he won’t.
When Cole and Garvey talk about Cole’s dad here, it’s significant that Cole can recognize himself in his dad. He understands that until the mauling changed his life forever, he and his dad were on the same violent path. Even more important is Cole’s reaction to Garvey insisting that Cole’s dad won’t get custody: Cole seem to trust that Garvey will look out for him and make sure that Cole won’t have to suffer abuse again. This points to the bond that Cole and Garvey have built up since Cole stopped relying on fear and violence.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Peter refuses to come back to the cabin until Cole is in his tent, 100 yards away. Garvey brings Cole supper later, and when Cole asks when he can come back, Garvey bluntly asks how long a person stays scared after a beating. Cole goes to sleep early, and in the morning, he forces himself up to go to the pond. He knocks on the cabin door and invites Garvey and Peter to join. Garvey forces Peter up, and they follow Cole. Cole wades into the icy water, but Garvey and Peter stay on the store. Cole then invites them to help him with the ancestor rock. At the top of the hill, he offers to let Peter shove it off, but Peter refuses.
Even if Cole and Garvey have a much more egalitarian and understanding relationship now, Garvey is still the mentor—and it’s still important to remind Cole that he's the one to blame for all of this. His work isn’t over until Cole and Peter come to some sort of understanding. Cole’s overtures to Peter suggest that he’s willing to shower Peter with kindness until Peter is able to let go of his fear—regardless of how Peter treats him in return.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
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Back at camp, Cole suggests they gather more firewood. Garvey invites Peter to help, but Peter walks away without a word. Cole grouses that they’re collecting firewood because of Peter, but Garvey answers that they’re here at all because of Cole. Days pass and Peter doesn’t change. He does what Garvey asks him, but no more. Two weeks after Peter’s arrival, Peter does rush forward to kick the ancestor rock off the hill—but he continues to ignore Cole. Several days later, Peter throws a stone so it lands near Cole and acts like he didn’t do it. Cole realizes that his fists are clenched, but doesn’t tell Garvey.
Now that Peter sees Cole isn’t a threat anymore, he’s seemingly realized that he has the opportunity to get revenge. This is a normal reaction—Peter suffered major trauma at Cole’s hands, and it’s understandable that he’d want to see Cole suffer some for the pain he caused. However, Cole’s experiences indicate that Peter won’t feel any better if he tries to hurt others; he won’t heal until he learns to forgive.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Not long after this, Peter bumps Cole while they’re walking along the stream and sends Cole flying into the water. Cole announces that he won’t soak since he’s already wet, but Peter strips, races into the pond, and races back out again. Later, Peter seems relaxed and asks Cole if he’s frozen in the pond. Cole says he’s used to it now, but Peter says he doesn’t want to get used to it. The rain persists, and Peter grows more sullen. Garvey remains happy and joking. One rainy day, about a month after Peter’s arrival, Cole sits in his tent and prepares himself for a cold night. Peter hesitantly calls that Cole can come into the cabin.
Rushing into the pond is likely just a way for Peter to try to one-up Cole and look tougher. However, Peter’s relaxed demeanor later in the day suggests that the pond still had a calming, healing effect on him. His insistence that he doesn’t want to get used to it, meanwhile, sounds a lot like something Cole would’ve said a year ago. This suggests that Peter is going through much the same process Cole did, and that Cole could help Peter if Peter was open to it.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon