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.

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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
things to take into consideration before truly deciding on something.

Numerous times in the plot, there was mention of the boy and his gun.

The only problem with that was that his gun was much too big for him. That
gun was given to him to use because he basically needed something to do.

That gun symbolized a possible role or path that, in order to be pursued
needed to first be grown or eased into, as with the gun. The gun carried a
heavy responsibility, and for the boy to use it properly, it would be best
if he grew into it a bit more, just as the role or path that the gun
symbolizes.

“There was no territory within thirty miles of the camp that he did
not know-bayou, ridge, brake, landmark, tree, and path.”(Pg.466). By now,
the boy was confident, ready, and prepared to go into the real world. He
had obtained a lot more knowledge, and wanted to start to use it. He was
just unsure of how to do it. The Bear seemed like a good path to take.

That was the road that had been handed to him for his entire life by his
father. But that was also before he began to think on his own. The factor
in the story that decided the boy’s fate was when he came face to face with
The Bear. His fyce was about to be killed by the beast. Those were his
two choices laid out before him-The Bear, or the fyce. In the end, the
road he decided upon was the fyce…his very own path, and the creation of
his very own destiny.

With all of his experiences, the boy in “The Bear” was given the best
of both worlds. He had a life prepared for him in the path of The Bear.

He also had an opportunity present itself in the form of the fyce. The
fyce represented his independence and his break away from predetermination.

The purpose of this essay was to prove that Faulkner’s “The Bear” was
about a boy trying to find his place among society though symbolism and
hidden meanings. “If Sam Fathers had been his mentor and the backyard
rabbits and squirrels at home his kindergarten, then the wilderness the old
bear ran was his college, the old male bear itself, long unwifed and
childless as to have become its own ungendered progenitor, was his alma
mater. But the boy never saw it.” (Pg. 466)