How does his exchange transform coles understanding of life?
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Along with the concepts of humility and love for others that Cole learns through these moments lying completely vulnerable on the ground, there is also the clear and vivid interaction and approach towards death. Cole’s existential crisis runs deep within his psyche during this period. In fact, as his interactions with the Spirit Bear show, he comes slowly to accept death. The second to last time that the Spirit Bear approaches him, he musters all of his energy to spit at it, knowing that the move may prompt it to kill him. However, the second time, when the bear is much closer to him, he instead chooses to rub the bear’s fur. His gesture of kindness towards the bear exemplifies the healing between antagonist and protagonist, and can be seen as a sort of reconciliation, which can serve as a climax point of the novel. From this point on, Cole is changed because he has accepted his powerlessness and the need to care for others, just as the bear has mercifully decided to spare him.