The Bear
Period 2

November 13, 2003

“A bear or a deer, too, has got to be scared of a coward the same as a brave man has got to be,” or so says William Faulkner in his classic coming of age tale of a boy and his trek to challenge the infamous “Bear” while trying to find himself. In “The Bear”, many things were thrown out at the reader, and in order to understand it better, sometimes it’s best to develop your own analysis and conclusions to allow you to do that. Through this essay, I will show how the story “The Bear” is actually about a boy trying to find his way into adulthood and into the real world through William Faulkner’s symbolisms and hidden meanings developed from my own analyses.

The main character in this story is followed through four years of his life, from ages ten to fourteen. To his father, one of the most important times of the year would be to go and hunt for the bear. It wasn’t just any bear, however. It was The Bear. The one who had always managed to escape true danger, the one who seemed immortal, and for the most part, surreal. When he was younger, the trip to Big Bottom didn’t have any true meaning yet. He didn’t fully understand its significance. “To the boy, at seven, eight, and nine, they were not going into the Big Bottom to hunt bear and deer, but to keep yearly rendezvous with the bear they did not even intend to kill.” In this quote from the story (Pg. 460), it is apparent that the boy (who remains nameless throughout the entire story) only looks at that annual trip more as a chore, only because he’d never been given any actual responsibilities, nor had he experienced anything exciting while there. It wasn’t until he was older that that trip became important to him—when her started to develop his own opinions.

Throughout the whole story, different potential life paths arose that the boy could have chosen, as he became a young adult. The bear symbolized his primary choice for his future. Every time he thought The Bear would be nearing in on their camp, he’d prepare himself by cocking up a gun on his shoulder—a way of preparation for what’s to come. An alternate life path arose in the midst of one such situation. The old man referred to on page 461, “Old Ben”, who came up to their camp to nose around in other people’s business, was that path. He was first viewed at as The Bear, and therefore mistaken. The boy was ready to shoot at it, when at he last second, he realized that it was actually a man (Old Ben). In the same sense, the boy was ready and aiming to go down the path that was being offered by the old man. He was going to accept that way of life, because it seemed the same as what The Bear was offering. Suddenly, he realized that his choice was completely wrong, and if he had fired down that path, it would have led to a life of regrets and sorrow.

Where else do you go when you’re trying to decide what to do with your life other than into the real world? There was an obvious symbol that represented the real world in “The Bear”. In the story, the wilderness was represented in the same such way as the real world might be in another situation. People say that the real world is tough on you, and you have to work hard to fit in and to survive. From an example in the story, the same goes for the wilderness. One of the family’s hounds went into the wilderness and came back with a piece bitten off of its ear and chunks torn out of its shoulder. That proves the point about the wilderness. “…But the wilderness which, leaning for the moment down, had patted lightly once the hound’s temerity.”(Pg. 461) Even the bravest of those who enter either the real world or the wilderness often times end up with their attitudes tainted, and outlooks on life totally adjusted. Those are just a few