Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Touching Spirit Bear: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cole breaks branches off trees to feed his fire. He notices an orca and her calf in the bay, but he ignores them and angrily tends the flames. Cole closes his eyes to gather his thoughts, and when he opens them, the Spirit Bear stares back from 100 yards away. Enraged, Cole threatens to kill the bear and carefully cuts a sapling to fashion into a spear. Now, he’s ready to kill the bear if it returns. He spends the afternoon next to his fire, since the smoke keeps the mosquitos away. Though Cole is hungry, he ignores it and curls up to sleep, reminding himself that this is easy. Cole struggles to fall asleep and wakes up several times in the night. Once when he awakes, everything is silent. He shouts in case the Spirit Bear is lurking, but he can’t fall back to sleep.
Cole is entirely unable to acknowledge or enjoy the beauty of the natural world. This is because he’s too caught up in his own human problems—and in his anger. While a curious bear like this Spirit Bear would certainly be a concern for many campers, Cole takes everything a step further when he prepares to kill it rather than just scaring it away (black bears are timid, and people can often successfully chase them off). Insisting on killing the bear instead of chasing it suggests that Cole feels he needs to prove himself and come out a winner.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
At dawn, it starts to drizzle. Cole knows he needs food and energy to swim, so he stokes his fire and heads down to the beach with his spear. There, he finds seagulls picking at a fish. He chases the seagulls away and sees that the fish is mangled, but still good. Cole cooks it over the fire, drinks from the stream, and has more fish. It begins to rain in earnest, and Cole wishes he could wait for better weather. He needs to leave today, or Edwin and Garvey will return to check on him. Cole settles in under the at.óow to watch the tide, though it’s hard to see given the weather.
Even though Cole remains focused on leaving today, it’s telling that he wishes he didn’t have to. On some level, he does understand that what he plans to do is even more dangerous because visibility is poor, he’s cold, and he hasn’t had a meal to fuel his swim. In other words, Cole knows he might not be powerful enough to make this work—but his desire to win is strong enough to override his instincts.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
When Cole looks up, the Spirit Bear is standing at the bay, staring straight at Cole. Cole grabs his spear and his knife and hurries for it. But rather than running away, the bear faces Cole. Cole figures it’s just bluffing and starts to shout at it. He raises his spear and thinks that no one is watching—he can back away and no one will ever know. However, his anger controls him, and he creeps forward. The bear waits calmly. Cole figures it’s afraid, and this just makes him angry. He starts forward.
It’s somewhat humorous that Cole seemingly believes that the bear is afraid of him, given that he’s a poorly armed teenager staring down an enormous animal. However, the very fact that Cole persists in this endeavor shows just how much his anger and his desire for power blind him to reality. He thinks he can win this fight, because in his mind, there’s no other option—to back down would be to admit weakness.
Themes
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon