Author Topic: Touching Spirit Bear  (Read 168 times)

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Offline Accardi Fox

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Touching Spirit Bear
« on: July 24, 2017, 01:15:10 pm »
"Touching Spirit Bear" is a novel by Ben Mikaelsen that follows a boy named Cole, who has extreme anger issues. This book really spoke to me, since I sometimes struggle with controlling my anger. While I can get really, REALLY mad at times, Cole's anger is a LOT more extreme than mine.

This book helped me to learn ways to cope with anger. I remember certain parts of the book whenever I get really angry, and it usually helps me to cool down a bit.

This is my favorite book I've ever read, and I especially recommend it to people who struggle with anger issues. Because it sure helped me with mine. Just know that one of the most important things this book teaches is that while you can never get rid of your anger, you can learn how to control it.

Here is an essay I wrote for my English class about the book.


     The novel Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen follows a juvenile delinquent named Cole Matthews. He gets in serious trouble when he beats up a student named Peter Driscal so bad that he almost kills him. As a tactic to avoid jail, Cole agrees to participate in a Native American tradition known as Circle Justice, where he will spend one year by himself on a remote Alaskan island. However, once on the island, he ruins his chances when he destroys all the supplies given to him. He is then attacked by a mythical white bear and nearly dies as a result. When Cole is rescued and then recovers, he is given a second chance at Circle Justice. This time, he doesn’t ruin his chances and begins to heal spiritually. He invites Peter to the island, and though he is reluctant at first, Peter allows Cole to show him how to spiritually heal, which saves both of them. Important parts of this story include Cole’s healing on the island, Cole’s experiences with nature, and the many meanings of the Spirit Bear.


    Cole’s healing on the island is one of the most important parts of this story. A man who works with him, named Edwin, shows Cole the things that he did when he was on the island himself long ago. These activities include soaking in a cold pond, carrying a rock up a hill and then rolling it down, and doing dances around a campfire. At first, Cole thinks these activities are pointless, but after some time doing them with Edwin, Cole gets used to them, and starts doing them on his own without Edwin’s guidance or supervision. Cole also independently figures out how to become “invisible”. He does this by staying still and clearing his mind. He also realizes that he cannot fully heal spiritually until he helps Peter heal, which is why he invites Peter to the island. When Peter participates in the activities Cole was taught, they both fully heal.


    Cole had many different experiences with nature throughout the book that influenced his change in heart. Perhaps the most important experience he had was while he was lying on the ground after he was attacked by the Spirit Bear. As he was lying there, he was looking up to a tall tree he was underneath. At one point, he spotted a nest in the tree with baby sparrows and their mother inside. When a storm hit the island, the tree came crashing to the ground. Later, Cole looked around for the nest and found it lying tattered on the ground with the baby sparrows lying dead nearby. He saw the mother sparrow looking for her babies, and Cole realized how fragile life can be. But after a while, the mother sparrow flew away. Through this experience, Cole learned that even through the toughest of times, life carries on.


    The bear that attacked Cole on the island is a large white bear known as the Spirit Bear. In this story, the bear holds many meanings. At first, Cole saw the Spirit Bear only a few times, just watching him from a distance. Cole was angered by the Spirit Bear, as it didn’t run away from Cole as so many other people did. Cole tells Garvey, “I wanted to kill it because it wasn’t scared of me.” When the bear attacked Cole, it served as giving Cole his comeuppance for nearly killing Peter. Later on, the bear returned as Cole was lying on the ground, injured and bleeding. Cole was sure the bear would finish him off, but it didn’t; it just stood over him. So Cole reached out and touched the Spirit Bear, hence the book’s title. “He felt the bear’s breath and heartbeat. And he felt one more thing. He felt trust.” After doing this, Cole looked around and saw the beauty of nature, as if the bear had given Cole a wake-up call to realize that the world isn’t such a bad place, which is what Cole initially believed. And right near the end of the book, Cole explained to Peter, “This morning, when we forgave each other, we also forgave ourselves. We allowed ourselves to become a part of a big circle. That’s why we saw the Spirit Bear.” These three events indicate that the Spirit Bear symbolizes revenge, forgiveness, and healing.


    This novel explains to the reader that important life lessons can sometimes be blessings in disguise. For example, even though Cole almost died after he was attacked, it played a big part in Cole’s change of heart. And the book shows that even the worst person can change if they try hard enough. In fact, this book really spoke to me. Sometimes I have anger issues, and while they’re not as extreme and violent as Cole’s issues were, mine are still sometimes pretty bad. So this book was not only very enjoyable, but also a sort of guide for me. The part of the story that spoke to me the most was when Edwin used a stick as a metaphor for your feelings. The right end symbolizes happiness, and the left end symbolizes anger. Edwin tells Cole to break off the left end of the stick to get rid of his anger. But when Cole does this, Edwin points out that there is still a left end and tells Cole to break off the left end again. But again, Edwin points out that there’s still a left end. Cole says the left end will always be there. Edwin explained that this means that no matter how hard you try, you can never fully get rid of your anger. But if you learn to control it, you will have more happiness in your life. Cole points out that what Edwin said makes more sense than any of his counselors had told him. And Edwin said, “That’s because those people still think you can get rid of the left end of the stick.”
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Offline Kolju

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Re: Touching Spirit Bear
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2017, 09:18:26 pm »
Good job on your essay, it seems well done. It has even convinced me to try out the novel. :)
I sometimes struggle with anger, and lashing out at people, as well. Literature can be very enlightening in that way that it helps to gain experience that I wouldn't normally be able to.
Even if one can't find a real person to relate, sometimes characters and their experiences can be just as helpful.

Anyway, what is your most favorite part of the book? What part helped you the most?
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