Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cole races into the cabin. Garvey winks at him as Cole heats water for hot chocolate. Though Peter refuses a drink, Cole makes him one anyway. Peter wants to know why they haven’t seen the Spirit Bear yet and insists that the bear isn’t real. Cole admits that he didn’t think it was real either, but he pulls up a sleeve to show off his mauling scars. Garvey interrupts the argument by deciding where everyone will sleep. Cole is thrilled to be inside and thanks Peter for letting him in. Peter spits that they’re not friends, and in the following days, Peter takes every opportunity to get back at Cole. He walks over Cole’s sleeping bag in muddy boots, knocks Cole’s jacket down, and leaves the door open at night so that Cole (who sleeps closest to the door) will be cold.
Even if Cole and Peter aren’t friends, Peter can still show Cole some degree of kindness by letting him into the cabin. Peter’s anger continues to shine through, however, and he uses Cole’s proximity to make Cole’s life even more miserable. It’s interesting that Garvey doesn’t do anything about Peter’s behavior, even though he certainly sees what’s going on. Garvey likely wants the boys to figure this out and take responsibility for their actions on their own; his job is just to make sure that no violence occurs.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
One day, Cole discovers that someone destroyed the bear carving on his totem pole. He feels enraged, but he calmly asks Peter why he did it. Peter shrugs, insists the Spirit Bear isn’t real, and taunts that Cole can’t beat him up again. Cole suggests that they go find another log so that Peter can carve his own totem, but Peter is derisive. After lunch, however, he accompanies Cole and Garvey to the shore and helps them drag the log up next to Cole’s. Peter doesn’t know what to carve. Cole suggests he carve the last animal he saw, and when Peter says he saw a mouse earlier, Cole announces that they’ll dance the mouse dance tonight. He insists that every animal can teach them something, but Peter sarcastically mocks Cole.
Peter’s snappiness and rudeness is likely a fear reaction. Even if he no longer thinks that Cole is going to jump him and beat him up again, this doesn’t mean that he’s done being afraid. And given Garvey’s constant presence, Peter must turn to being rude and sullen—he can’t do anything more than that. It’s commendable that Cole so virtuously puts up with Peter’s behavior: it speaks to his commitment to helping Peter, as well as his newfound ability to handle his own feelings of anger.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Peter refuses to come out of the cabin until supper is ready. After they eat, Cole adds more wood to the fire and dances first. When he’s done, he says that mice are persistent and bold, and that they’re survivors. Garvey’s dance seems to interest Peter. Garvey says that mice often go unnoticed. Peter’s dance is jerky and unsure, and afterward he says that he only learned that he looks stupid. After Peter retreats to the cabin, Cole laments that Peter will never forgive him. Garvey shrugs and reminds Cole that spiritual wounds heal slowly. The next morning, Cole carves a mouse into his totem instead of soaking. Peter eventually joins Cole.
Though it’s understandable that Cole is sad about how Peter seems uninterested in forgiving him, Cole also seemingly forgets how long his own transformation took. It wasn’t until he’d been on the island for almost a year that he was able to dance the dance of anger—and that happened about 18 months after he first beat Peter up. Though Cole can and should make himself as nonthreatening as possible, this doesn’t mean that making amends with Peter won’t take time.
Themes
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole is amazed at how real Peter’s mouse carving looks. Peter smirks that his mouse is better and ignores Cole’s reminder that they shouldn’t compare whose feelings are better. Peter asks again about the Spirit Bear, so Cole tells him about the white fur. He says that he always had to prove things back then because he knew he was a liar, and that he threw the fur away because he decided to stop lying. That afternoon, Peter asks for some time alone. Garvey and Cole go on a hike, and as they head back, Cole sees Peter carving on Cole’s log. Cole races back, angry, but stops when he sees that Peter is carving a lifelike bear where he destroyed Cole’s. Cole asks Peter if he’d teach him to carve. Peter shrugs and says it depends on whether Cole wants to learn.
Questioning the truth of Cole’s story is another way for Peter to try to anger Cole and make him feel unimportant. In the face of this, Cole has to embody Garvey and Edwin as he speaks slowly and calmly to Peter at all times. Complimenting Peter’s carving is a major turning point, as suddenly, Cole begins to see what Peter has to share with the world. Now that he knows what Peter can do, Cole can help make Peter feel important and worthwhile simply by complimenting his carvings. Peter’s choice to fix the bear, meanwhile, suggests that he’s also coming around.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
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