Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Cole’s Dad Character Analysis

Cole’s dad is a wealthy, imposing man who regularly dresses in three-piece suits, no matter where he’s going. He’s a heavy drinker and believes that he can deal with every problem by throwing money or a lawsuit at it—which means that Cole poses a problem for him, as buying Cole expensive gifts and sports equipment doesn’t buy Cole’s compliance. Rather, Cole’s dad began beating Cole when Cole was small, often to the point that Cole went physically numb and couldn’t hide the bruises after the fact. Cole’s mom and dad divorced in the year before the novel begins, and they refuse to speak to each other in the novel’s present—which makes their split even more difficult for Cole to accept. Though the novel never says whether Cole’s dad was physically abusive to his wife during their marriage, their relationship did include intimidation and controlling tactics—Cole’s mom is clearly afraid of her ex-husband. Obsessed with appearances, Cole’s dad is enraged when Cole tells the Circle Justice program about the abuse, and following this, he effectively stops trying with Cole. This is in part because he’s charged with child abuse, though Cole also doesn’t want to talk to his dad, as Cole blames his dad for his own problems. It’s not until the Spirit Bear mauls Cole and Cole begins to heal that he can finally understand that blaming his dad is just another way to evade responsibility. During Cole’s time in the hospital, his mom also shares that Cole’s dad’s parents beat him when he was a kid—he doesn’t know anything but violence. As Cole heals, comes to terms with his anger, and learns to forgive, he does forgive his dad and comes to the realization that his dad must be terrified. Cole’s dad, however, changes little over the course of the novel. He ultimately sues Cole’s mom for custody of Cole, something that Garvey (Cole’s parole officer) suggests that he does to intimidate others, exert control, and win. The custody battle is still ongoing at the end of the novel, but Garvey insists that Cole’s dad will never win custody of his son.

Cole’s Dad Quotes in Touching Spirit Bear

The Touching Spirit Bear quotes below are all either spoken by Cole’s Dad or refer to Cole’s Dad. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Touching Spirit Bear published in 2002.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Cole felt no regret for having burned the supplies and the shelter. Nor did he regret hurting Peter. This was all somebody else’s fault. If it weren’t for his parents, Peter, and the stupid Healing Circle, he wouldn’t even be here. Somebody would pay for what was happening. He would get revenge, especially against those who had wanted him in jail. People like Peter’s lady lawyer. He hated her.

Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“I did care about you. But helping others is how I help myself.”

“You need help?” Cole asked, surprised.

Garvey nodded. “I see a lot of myself in you. When I was your age, I spent five long years in prison for things I’ll go to my grave regretting. I lived my early years here in Drake, but no one cared enough to take me through Circle Justice.” He shook his head with a sad smile. “Take my word for it, jail scars the soul. And I was never able to help those I hurt.”

Related Characters: Garvey (speaker), Cole Matthews (speaker), Cole’s Dad, Peter Driscal
Related Symbols: Circles
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“Ever wonder why your dad beats you?”

Cole looked up, surprised. “I’ve never done anything to him.”

“I didn’t say you did.”

“He just whips me ‘cause he’s mad.”

Garvey smiled. “Remind you of anybody we know?”

Related Characters: Garvey (speaker), Cole Matthews (speaker), Cole’s Dad
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

“Your father isn’t a bad person, but when he was younger, he had parents who beat him for everything he did. That’s all he ever knew. When I saw him start doing it to you, I kept telling myself things would get better. Drinking helped me ignore reality.” She shook her head. “It took a divorce and you ending up in the hospital to wake me up. I realized I couldn’t change your father, but I could change me. I’m sorry you’ve gone through all you have. Can you ever forgive me?”

Related Characters: Cole’s Mom (speaker), Cole Matthews, Cole’s Dad
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

“I just know that my dad’s not going to ever come back to say he’s sorry. Even if he did, he couldn’t change what he did. He couldn’t take away all the memories.”

“So you think this is all his fault, huh?” asked Edwin.

“No,” said Cole, his voice trembling. “Mom said his parents beat him up, too. I don’t know where the anger all started. All I know is I don’t ever want to have a kid and beat him up.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Edwin (speaker), Garvey, Cole’s Mom, Cole’s Dad
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

“I just realized that I’m not a bad person. Nobody is,” he said. “People are just scared and do bad things. Sometimes people hurt each other trying to figure things out.” Cole gazed into the flames. “I hate what Dad does to me, but he must be just as scared as I am. He doesn’t want to be mean; he just doesn’t know any better.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Edwin, Garvey, Cole’s Dad, Peter Driscal
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

“I think it’s a matter of pride. He thinks he can always get his way and doesn’t want anyone or anything to win out over him.”

Cole traced the eraser of his pencil across the table. “I used to be like that.”

“I know you did.”

“Do you think he’ll win?” asked Cole.

Garvey shook his head. “Over my dead body.”

Related Characters: Garvey (speaker), Cole Matthews (speaker), Cole’s Dad
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Touching Spirit Bear LitChart as a printable PDF.
Touching Spirit Bear PDF

Cole’s Dad Character Timeline in Touching Spirit Bear

The timeline below shows where the character Cole’s Dad appears in Touching Spirit Bear. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...here because Peter wouldn’t fight back. What angers Cole most, however, is his mom and dad’s behavior. They used to always come to his rescue with a lawyer and money, but... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Cole thinks that his mom never stands up to anyone, while his dad drinks and blames everything on Cole. He tortures them when they visit by ignoring them.... (full context)
Chapter 2
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...He described it as a healing place, but Cole resents it and the supplies. His dad paid for it all, and this is just another buyout. Cole twists his handcuffs again,... (full context)
Chapter 3
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...came to his sporting events. When Garvey expressed sympathy, Cole cracked and shouted that his dad hits him until he’s numb while his mom does nothing. Garvey then pulled out baking... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...that all the ingredients in his cake are awful; banishment feels even worse than his dad’s abuse or his mom ignoring him. Cole only looks away and stops laughing when the... (full context)
Chapter 4
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Judge Tanner arrives, along with Nathaniel Blackwood and Cole’s dad. They’re both dressed in suits and look out of place. Cole’s dad sits on Cole’s... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...he wants help getting over his anger. People seem to like what he said. Cole’s dad introduces himself and says that he wants to make sure Cole doesn’t cause problems again.... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...Healing Circle that Cole was dangerous and untrustworthy. Other people echoed her, and then Cole’s dad said that he and Cole’s mom have always wanted what’s best to him. Cole interrupted... (full context)
Chapter 6
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Cole puts on his damp clothes and laughs about people’s reactions when he called his dad a liar at the Circle Justice meeting. Cole’s dad sputters, turns red, and tries to... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...of a community and a family that are broken—they’re all guilty. He stares at Cole’s dad as he says this. Peter’s lawyer is the next to speak: she insists that Cole... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...any of the Circle Justice stuff. When Cole asks whose side Garvey is on, Cole’s dad says that this isn’t about sides. Garvey agrees with him, but then he asks when... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Cole also wishes he could see his dad’s reaction, as he knows that his dad hates that he can’t fix Cole with a... (full context)
Chapter 14
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...the hospital. Garvey is next to him; Cole’s mom and a guard are behind. Cole’s dad didn’t visit Cole in the hospital because a month after Cole was hospitalized, his dad... (full context)
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...in the car and wonders if he’ll go to jail. Cole also wonders if his dad will go to jail. At the detention center, the guard escorts Cole and his small... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...incredulous when Cole says it didn’t try to hurt him. Cole explains that when his dad beats him, he knows his dad is trying to hurt him. He knows the bear... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole settles in. His dad never visits, but Garvey and Cole’s mom stop by every day. Cole’s mom looks happier.... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...of the same people from before are there, except for Peter, Peter’s parents, and Cole’s dad. The Keeper opens the meeting, and Garvey keeps glancing at the door. The Keeper talks... (full context)
Chapter 15
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...stops by a few times but says little. Nathaniel Blackwood visits to say that Cole’s dad won’t pay his legal fees anymore. Then, two days later, Garvey and Edwin stop by.... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole admits he’s not sure how this changes anything, but he knows now that his dad is never going to apologize. Edwin asks if Cole thinks this is his dad’s fault,... (full context)
Chapter 17
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...wonders if it’s angry or curious. He also thinks about his parents, wondering if his dad cares about anything aside from himself, and he hopes that Peter is okay. Cole becomes... (full context)
Chapter 20
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...People just get scared and sometimes hurt others. He says that he hates what his dad does, but that his dad must be scared and not know how to not be... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...until his year is up. His mom calls Garvey daily. Cole also asks about his dad. Edwin shrugs and says that his dad never spent time in jail, and he can’t... (full context)
Chapter 25
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)