Touching Spirit Bear

By: Ben Mikaelsen

Paper by: Anna Berman

Symbols and Motifs

The attow symbolizes trust because Garvey gives Cole the attow to prove himself worthy by receiving a chance to do the right thing. The stick(in the pond) shows anger will always remain, but you should look at the brighter things. The hot dog shows that life is what you make of it, and you should make the best of it. The ancestor rock symbolizes that you "carry your ancestors" with and learn from their mistakes. It also shows that that if you give your anger a little shove, you can relinquish it from controlling you. The Spirit Bear symbolizes courage and trust as well as it also can be seen as a reflection of Cole, When he hurt the Spirit Bear, he also hurt himself. When he was mauled, he was able to actually see the world around him and that made him a changed person.


Cole- Cole initially shows no remorse for his actions, no intentions of changing his ways, and harbors a deep anger at the world and particularly at his parents. He is mean and uncharitable even with those who try to help him such as the prison guard Garvey and the Indian tribesman Edwin. Cole is a dynamic character and changes for the better. Cole heals when he is able to help Peter overcome the pain he has caused him. Cole is able to look at the world with a broader perspective and sees he doesn't need to sulk in his misery when there is a beautiful world around him. Garvey- Garvey is a very driven and determined man to help youths stop ruining their lives. Edwin- As well as Garvey, Edwin is also very driven, he wants to help Cole to in his path to healing. Peter- He is shy, quiet, and terrified of Cole's presence after that moment forward. He too harbors anger, but it is directed against Cole.

Thematic Quote

“The mauling didn’t make sense. In the past, everything had always been afraid of him. Why wasn’t the bear scared?”

This quote by the third-person omniscient narrator gives us insight into Cole's own thought process in the aftermath of the Spirit Bear attack. The fearlessness of the bear is the final factor that makes Cole understand just how weak and vulnerable he is. The bear literally crushes his body but it also figuratively crushes his pride and his sense of anger and power over others. These vices certainly continue to trouble Cole in the second half of the book, but this quote gives an insight into his process of learning and growth through Circle Justice. First, on the purely physical level, the Spirit Bear's attack on Cole leaves Cole physically hurt and permanently weakened. This physical pain and arduous path to healing is analogous to the suffering that Peter previously endured at the hands of Cole. In many ways, both of these instances of physical suffering and subsequent healing make later personal and psychological healing possible.

"I am" Poem

I am Peter Driscal

I am strong and I am weak

I wonder what my life holds in store

I hear the surrounding students screaming "Fight! Fight! Fight!" as Cole pounds my head harder against the sidewalk

I see the repeating image of Cole's fist hitting my face

I want to be at peace with myself

I am Peter Driscal

I pretend to not feel as hopeless as a plant without sun

I feel blood dripping slowly down my face

I touch my lips and hope that the next words that will come from them will not have a s-s-stutter

I worry that Cole may go back to being as mad as a hornet

I cry when I think about one event that transformed my life

I am Peter Driscal

I understand that I will never be the same again

I say that you know people have changed when they have a growth and change in their habits

I dream of the day I won't get picked on for my condition

I try to erase any suicidal thoughts from my mind

I hope Cole and I will stay close together

I am Peter Driscal