The Bear


There are two main forces on this earth, man and nature. They often collide in violent struggles with one another. Then there are times where they harmoniously combine making an unstoppable and beautiful force. Once in a great while though, it is not about fighting together or even just working together. It is about actually being one. In William Faulkner’s The Bear we witness a boy coming into manhood and a bear wounded by the hardships of the forest, becoming one with each other in a mysterious and unexpected twist of fate. In my essay I will show how the boy’s relationship with the bear versus the other hunters’ relationships with the bear relates to the struggle between man and nature.


Hunting the bear was not just a hobby for the boy in William Faulkner’s story, it was his job. The boy had inherited the bear from his father. It was now his duty to hunt the bear down, whether he wanted to or not. He would even dream about the bear and about the hunt. It haunted him every night. He could not escape this task of hunting down the bear. It’s not that he didn’t want to hunt the bear. For the boy, hunting was always just a way of life, but for some reason it was different with this creature he was being asked to hunt down. There was something keeping him from the bear.


The boy had a relationship with the bear that the other hunters did not have. The boy’s father and his friends saw the bear as a trophy. It was just another head they could hang on the wall. To the boy, the bear was something sacred. Many would think that hunting this bear was symbolism for the boy stepping into manhood. This may be true, but I feel that it goes even deeper than that. If hunting this bear was a way for the boy to step into manhood, don’t you think it would have made more sense for him to kill the bear in the end? I do. Yet, the boy did not kill the bear when he was finally in the position to do so. The boy and the bear had an unspoken connection. What exactly it was or how it came to be, William Faulkner lets the reader decide, but it was there.


So we are led to a question. What are some possible things that could have connected the bear and the boy? My feeling was that William Faulkner was less concerned about the literal connection between the boy and the bear and more concerned about how it symbolized the struggle between man and nature. To me the bear obviously represented nature, the father and his friends represented modern day man, and the boy represented the small minority of people who care about the environment.


The boy’s father and his friends, like most humans, see nature as simply a necessity and see hunting animals as a hobby. They don’t think about what all their hunting and building does to the environment around them. They are only concerned with themselves. The boy with his “child like divination” of nature and the bear still has not lost respect for the environment. He does not know about material things and silly hobbies because he is still young and so he has not lost his compassion for nature. To be man is to be an enemy of nature.


Even so, the bear does not die. This interested me. I was almost certain when reading this book, that the bear would die in the end and they would have some passage about how the boy had triumphed and was now a man. My assumption was wrong. The bear does not die. This is what led me to believe that the story was more focused on man and nature. Nature, whether man likes it or not, is an unstoppable force and will always overcome. The bear living in the end was symbolism for all the forces of nature that have yet to be controlled by man.


One example of the struggles between man and nature is the wound that the bear had obtained from a trap on his