Touching Spirit Bear

by

Ben Mikaelsen

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Peter Driscal Character Analysis

Peter is a skinny, redheaded ninth grader whom Cole violently beats up when Peter tattles to adults that Cole robbed and trashed a hardware store. Following the beating, Peter suffers a permanent limp, has memory and attention problems, lisps, and speaks in a slow, drawn-out manner as a result of his injuries. He’s also terrified and angry about what happened to him. For much of the novel, this doesn’t worry Cole, but Peter reenters Cole’s life in a major way when Cole discovers that the key to his own healing is helping Peter to heal and forgive. Around the same time that Cole makes this leap, Peter attempts to commit suicide as a result of his depression and anger. Horrified, Cole insists that the only way for Peter to heal is to come to the Alaskan island where Cole has been banished as punishment for the assault. Ultimately, since Peter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Driscal, don’t know what else to do, they agree. On the island, Peter keeps to himself as much as possible and is terrified of Cole. In his brave moments, he argues with Cole about the existence of the Spirit Bear. As he begins to see that Cole has changed, Peter allows Cole to sleep in the cabin with him and Cole’s parole officer, Garvey—but he also grows confident and cruel. He gets Cole’s things dirty, pushes Cole, and even destroys one of Cole’s totem pole carvings. But once Cole gets Peter set up with his own totem pole, Peter reveals that he’s an excellent carver and begins making overtures to Cole, even fixing the animal he destroyed. Things come to a head when one morning, the boys go alone to soak in the pond and Peter rages at Cole, punching him and kicking him. Peter ultimately collapses, crying about how afraid he is—and as he accepts Cole’s comfort, the Spirit Bear appears. Peter helps Cole to carve a circle on his totem pole, and though they’re not entirely comfortable with each other yet, it’s implied that the boys’ friendship is just beginning.

Peter Driscal Quotes in Touching Spirit Bear

The Touching Spirit Bear quotes below are all either spoken by Peter Driscal or refer to Peter Driscal. 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 3 Quotes

“Will Peter be there?”

Garvey shrugged. “It’s up to him. He may not be ready to forgive you.”

“I don’t care if he forgives me.”

Garvey rubbed the back of his neck, then glanced up toward the ceiling. “How come everything is always about you? This forgiveness isn’t for you. Unless Peter forgives you, he won’t heal.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Garvey (speaker), Peter Driscal
Related Symbols: Circles
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

“If the Driscals realize that the Circle allows them to have a voice in decisions, and that forgiveness can help Peter to heal, they may also join the Circle.”

“You mean they might help decide my sentence?”

Garvey nodded. “Maybe.”

“They’ll hang me,” Cole said. “I’m dead.”

“I think you’ve already hung yourself,” Garvey answered.

Related Characters: Garvey (speaker), Cole Matthews (speaker), Peter Driscal, Mr. Driscal, Mrs. Driscal
Related Symbols: Circles
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Cole studied Peter. Peter hadn’t sounded like this before. Cole wiped his sweaty hands on his pants. It wasn’t like he had meant to hurt anyone. Besides, this wouldn’t have happened if Peter had kept his mouth shut.

Related Characters: Cole Matthews, Peter Driscal
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
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 8 Quotes

Wincing, he wiped at his mouth with his left hand, then stared at the glistening red on his knuckles. It reminded him of the bear’s blood on the knife blade beside him. It also looked like the blood he had seen on the sidewalk after beating up Peter. The blood looked identical. This thought drifted about in his head but failed to gain meaning. Blood might look the same, but Peter was a loser and a jerk.

Related Characters: Cole Matthews, Peter Driscal
Related Symbols: Spirit Bear
Page Number: 72
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 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 24 Quotes

“There’s still something missing. It isn’t enough to be sorry and forgive. Somehow I have to figure out a way to help Peter. Until then, I’ll never be able to carve anything in the blank space. That’s what I had to discover before I could heal, wasn’t it?”

Edwin smiled slightly and nodded. “How to help Peter heal is something that will haunt you and stay in your thoughts like a sliver under your skin. The harm you did to him will fester and pain you all your life unless you’re able to make up for it.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Edwin (speaker), Peter Driscal
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

“How is Garvey?” Cole asked excitedly.

“He said that last week Peter tried to commit suicide.”

“Suicide!” Cole caught his breath. “Why?”

“If someone is treated as if his life is worthless, he begins to believe it.”

“But his life isn’t worthless,” Cole protested.

Edwin stood, and with one motion opened the door and flung the last of his hot chocolate outside.

“I never told him he was worthless,” Cole argued.

“Smashing his head on a sidewalk is a funny way of telling Peter he’s valuable.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Edwin (speaker), Peter Driscal
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

The next morning Cole hiked alone to the pond. He soaked as long as he could, his calmness shaken by how terrified Peter was of him. How could he have once wanted someone to feel that way? No matter how deeply he breathed, soaking failed to take away his troubled thoughts.

Related Characters: Cole Matthews, Peter Driscal
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

Cole fought back his own tears. “I’m part of some big circle that I don’t understand. And so are you. Life, death, good and bad, everything is part of that circle. When I hurt you, I hurt myself, too. I don’t think I’ll ever heal from what I did to you, but I’m sorry, Peter. I really am sorry.”

Related Characters: Cole Matthews (speaker), Peter Driscal
Related Symbols: Circles
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Touching Spirit Bear LitChart as a printable PDF.
Touching Spirit Bear PDF

Peter Driscal Character Timeline in Touching Spirit Bear

The timeline below shows where the character Peter Driscal 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
...hardware store. A week later, when he bragged about it at school, a kid named Peter Driscal turned Cole in. Cole beat him bloody in the parking lot and smashed Peter’s... (full context)
Chapter 3
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...lawyers, and Cole’s parents. Cole scoffed that his parents don’t care and then asked if Peter would be there. Garvey shrugged and noted that Peter might not be ready to forgive.... (full context)
Chapter 4
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...go to the meetings, and he can’t go to the ones between the Keepers and Peter’s family. Peter’s family might help decide Cole’s sentence, which makes Cole insist that they’ll hang... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...a social event. His mom looks afraid, and Cole thinks this feels like public humiliation. Peter, Mr. and Mrs. Driscal, and Peter’s lawyer arrive. Then, the Keeper asks everyone to join... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...looks at Cole and points out that he has a history of anger and violence. Peter is still in therapy for his injuries. Addressing the group, she says that they must... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
When Peter introduces himself, he speaks slowly and haltingly. He didn’t sound like this before. Cole’s hands... (full context)
Chapter 5
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...it around his shoulders and finds his clothes. He doesn’t regret burning everything or hurting Peter. All of this is someone else’s fault, and Cole knows he’ll get revenge someday. He... (full context)
Chapter 6
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...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 must go to jail for... (full context)
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Peter gets the feather and holds it for a long time. When prompted, he slurs that... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
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...the first place. After the fifth Circle meeting, Cole asked why nobody believed he’d changed. Peter’s lawyer points out that Cole is a liar and sarcastically says that they can’t ship... (full context)
Chapter 8
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...his mouth, he notes that it looks just like the bear’s blood and just like Peter’s blood—but Peter is a loser, and the bear is stupid. (full context)
Chapter 14
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...Garvey to the Circle. Many 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... (full context)
Chapter 15
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...courts, but Garvey insists that Cole has changed and should be allowed to change more. Peter’s lawyer, however, insists that everyone has suffered too much. She insists that Peter is doing... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...liar. Cole says he saw and touched the bear. Though she doesn’t have the feather, Peter’s lawyer insists they’re done. Edwin notes that a fishing crew recently sighted a white bear... (full context)
Chapter 17
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...parents, wondering if his dad cares about anything aside from himself, and he hopes that Peter is okay. Cole becomes angrier as he tosses and turns, thinking about how Garvey and... (full context)
Chapter 19
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...struggled—but when he looks back, he realizes he’s come a long way since he beat Peter. Cole wonders if he’ll ever escape the consequences and realizes that he doesn’t want to... (full context)
Chapter 21
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...say whether Cole will ever have to live with his dad again. Cole asks about Peter, and Edwin replies that his depression is getting worse. Cole muses that he wishes he... (full context)
Chapter 23
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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Cole shouts into the ocean that he didn’t mean to hurt Peter and that he’s sorry for what he did. Cole cries, but he gently kicks the... (full context)
Chapter 24
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
...what Cole carved in the totem, Cole murmurs that he knows he needs to help Peter in order to carve something. Edwin says this is what Cole needed to learn before... (full context)
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
...has more time to think about his loneliness. He thinks about his parents, Garvey, and Peter—who, according to Edwin, is growing more depressed. Cole’s anger returns more often, though he tries... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...carries supplies to the cabin and makes them cocoa. Edwin finally shares that Garvey called: Peter tried to commit suicide. Cole is shocked, but Edwin isn’t surprised—he suggests that Peter now... (full context)
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
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Cole returns to his cabin and thinks about Peter’s suicide attempt. He understands that Peter’s parents would never actually let Peter come to the... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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...in the cabin. Edwin tells Cole to put dry clothes on and then says that Peter tried again to commit suicide. He wants to hear how Cole can help Peter. (full context)
Chapter 25
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Edwin immediately shoots down Cole’s insistence that Peter come to the island. Cole argues that Peter needs to see the Spirit Bear, soak,... (full context)
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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...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. (full context)
Chapter 26
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
Cole remarks sadly that Peter is very afraid, so Edwin advises Cole to be patient. Mr. Driscal asks Cole for... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence 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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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Peter refuses to come back to the cabin until Cole is in his tent, 100 yards... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Not long after this, Peter bumps Cole while they’re walking along the stream and sends Cole flying into the water.... (full context)
Chapter 27
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Ritual Theme Icon
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...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... (full context)
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Peter refuses to come out of the cabin until supper is ready. After they eat, Cole... (full context)
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
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Cole is amazed at how real Peter’s mouse carving looks. Peter smirks that his mouse is better and ignores Cole’s reminder that... (full context)
Chapter 28
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
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Cole, Garvey, and Peter go to the pond together through the summer until one morning, Peter suggests that just... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Peter shouts that Cole hasn’t changed. Cole slowly insists that he’s not going to beat Peter... (full context)
Fear, Power, and Cycles of Violence Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Justice and Responsibility Theme Icon
...circle of life and death. Cole understands now that he hurt himself when he hurt Peter and he apologizes again. Peter collapses, sobbing, and Cole puts his arms around Peter. They... (full context)
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Ritual Theme Icon
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Cole and Peter soak in silence and then find a second ancestor rock. They both roll their anger... (full context)