Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen Analysis

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen Analysis
📌Category: Books, Literature
📌Words: 1231
📌Pages: 5
📌Published: 28 April 2021

Justice should heal, not punish… You and I need to be friends, and I need to forgive you to get over my anger. That’s Circle Justice. Everybody is a part of the healing, including people from the community—anybody who cares. But healing is much harder than standard punishment. Healing requires taking responsibility for your actions.”” (Ch. 1)

This topic is important for the Keeper because the island offers a reliable method of healing that could be useful for future troubled youth. Since this worked for Cole, who was deemed “hopeless”, kids who might be sent to jail could try this option. This choice would benefit youth and help them become successful members of society.

Cole’s banishment to the island was the better option for him due to the fact that he had to teach himself to control his anger, he needed to learn the value of life, and he had to learn to take responsibility for his actions.

First of all, Cole had impulsive anger issues that often got out of hand and affected those in his community. His rebellious and controlling personality caused him to talk back often and believed that everybody else was inferior. Cole even manipulated Garvey by getting him into Circle Justice with the quote, “The world was made out of suckers and fools, and today Garvey was at the top of the heap.” (Ch. 1). This behaviour needed to be changed in order for Cole to become a better person.

Everyone tried all they could to help him, including bringing him to drug counselling, anger therapy sessions, counsellors, and even several detention centers. None of the methods worked, which left jail and Circle Justice. 

Cole’s anger took hold of him when Peter Driscal ratted him out. His pride was so important to him that he beat up Peter, causing permanent injuries. He claimed that ““Besides, this wouldn’t have happened if Peter had kept his mouth shut.”” (Ch. 4), which shows how little Cole cared about him.

In jail, Cole would’ve stayed the same before and after. But on the island, he had a healthy outlet to release his anger and learn to control it. This was shown when he pushed the ancestor rock down the hill; “He knew that he had to quit blaming others, including his father, for his problems. As long as the blame existed, so would his anger. He had to let go, the same way he let go of this rock.” (Ch. 19). The ancestor rock gave him the freedom to release his anger, focusing on the positive.

From being on the island, Cole learned more about himself and recognized what he did wrong. By being patient with Peter, he began to break his cycle of violence to become a better individual. 

Following this, on the island, Cole had face-to-face encounters with nature. An example of this is when Cole fought the Spirit Bear and took a clump of white hair. Afterwards, he realized that he didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. He then released the hair into the water. The fight with the bear taught him the importance of honesty and truth. He didn’t need to lie to anybody, which is shown with the quote, “Deliberately he raised his hand and tossed the hair into the water. Beginning today, he would tell the truth. His words would become his only proof.” (Ch. 13). The reason why he didn’t want to lie is because lying didn’t get him anywhere; the truth was always the hardest to tell, but he was willing to do this because he didn’t wanna be that kind of person anymore.

Another time that Cole learned from being on the island was when he showed sympathy for the dead sparrows. By asking, ““Are you okay?”” (Ch. 9), he was beginning to think about others instead of just himself. Before going to the island, he wouldn’t have even noticed that the sparrows died.

He also thought about the circle of life and realized that he wanted to live and wanted to have that choice. This meant he had to find meaning or purpose. Cole reflected on his actions and where they got him; “Now, as he lay near death, those he had hated were safe and warm. Those he had blamed were still alive and well. He had hurt himself more. Life was empty and meaningless unless he found some meaning.” (Ch. 10). Even after a life of hurting others, he still hurt himself the worst. In jail, Cole wouldn’t have recognized this and would’ve stayed the same, without an opportunity to truly change himself.

Lastly, Cole used to care less about taking responsibility, healing, or any of the Circle Justice aspects. He only wanted to sign up to get out of jail, which was beside the purpose, as shown by the quote, ““How soon can I get out of this stink hole?”” (Ch. 3). By going to the island two times, Cole didn’t have anyone to control or blame for his mistakes except himself.

If Cole went to jail, he wouldn’t have been able to go through this process of honesty, change, and reflection. By going to the island, he was able to experience forgiveness, understanding the damage he did. Before, the reason didn’t bother him at all.

When he danced the anger dance, he saw the damage he caused to Peter and said, ““I’m sorry!” … “Please forgive me! I didn’t mean to hurt Peter!”” (Ch. 23). Before going to the island, he blamed it on Peter, hence the quote, “Besides, this wouldn’t have happened if Peter had kept his mouth shut.” (Ch. 4). Now that he took responsibility for his actions, he realized that because of his actions, Peter was the one to suffer.

Taking responsibility showed that Cole had truly changed, and that he saw that Circle Justice is no longer a game. He acknowledged that people did care about him and wanted to help him. He also learned that his dad abused him because he doesn’t know anything else. Cole explains this to Peter by saying, ““Peter, I’m not a bad person. I got mad at you ‘cause I was mad at myself. I thought my dad beat me because I was worthless.”” (Ch. 28). 

Cole told Peter how much he learned from being a part of Circle Justice, and how sorry he was. This is important because even with anger, comes forgiveness. Cole has to forgive himself for his wrongs, which he did, and Peter has to get over his anger and forgive Cole.

People in the community should pay attention to when Cole went to the island, knowing that there’s still hope. Cole had no more options left, except for the island, which changed him dramatically from an angry teenager to a calm 15-year old. If other kids like him took the same path, they could go through the same healing process and then society wouldn’t have to be afraid.

Cole’s banishment to the island was the better option for him due to the fact that he had to teach himself to control his anger, he needed to learn the value of life, and he had to learn to take responsibility for his actions.

In conclusion, the island was the better option for Cole. He rehabilitated really well over his time on the island, compared to if he was sent to jail. Some other youth his age might not be able to heal or change using the same process, and that’s alright because everyone’s different. It has been said that going forwards, Cole still has a bit more to change. To fix this, he should mentor Peter on the island and other kids that go down his same path.

Maybe after he helps Peter, Peter will go back and help others, continuing the ongoing circle of healing. It is true when Garvey says that Circle Justice seeks to heal, not punish. Jail will only punish individuals who weren’t shown the proper way to heal.

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