Chapter 20 touching spirit bear
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The importance of animal imagery again appears in these chapters, and they are linked with these traditional Indian practices. When on the second day, the group sights whales off the island’s shore, Edwin proposes a whale dance that evening. Each person in turn dances around the fire making motions of a breaching whale, and afterwards they are supposed to convey a lesson learned from the dance. While dancing Cole notices how whales migrate but do not have a home, and he feels understanding with them.
The second day, they see a wolf, and they do a wolf dance, through which Cole learns that you need the help of others, like the way wolves work in a pack. On the third day after Cole sees a Spirit Bear, they do a Spirit Bear dance. Each of these dances allows Cole to place himself in the spirit of animals in a kind of reverse anthropomorphism. In this sense, Cole is searching for a simpler understanding of the natural world and by consequence, of his own life. Particularly moving is Cole’s Spirit Bear dance in which he reenacts the scene of the mauling from the perspective of the bear. The author uses this clever way to demonstrate how Cole is beginning to understand empathy and forgive instead of holding anger. By placing himself in the skin of his enemy, he accepts the hurt that he felt and the ensuing anger towards the Spirit Bear.