How do Cole's relationships with his family, community, and country affect his actions and decisions in Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen?
Cole did not have a positive relationship with his family. His father was abusive, and his mother’s unhappiness led her to drink. He blamed them for everything, and became a very angry person. His anger led him to try to break into a hardware store. He received Circle Justice as an intervention instead of jail.
Last year at this time, he had never even heard of Circle Justice—he hadn’t heard of it until his latest arrest for breaking into a hardware store. After robbing the place, he had totally trashed it. (Ch. 1)
At first, Circle Justice did not work. Cole not only robbed and trashed the hardware store, but he also beat up a boy who told on him. His anger at the world extended to anyone who tried to help him. Cole only agreed to Circle Justice because he thought that it would get him out of prison.
Cole’s anger at the world affected his decisions because he believed that everything was everyone else’s fault. He blamed his parents and everyone who tried to help him. This included Edwin, the Tlingit elder assigned to his case, and Garvey, his youth probation officer. Together, the two men were responsible for getting Cole back on the right path.
Circle Justice did eventually work for Cole, even though he never expected it to. Edwin and Garvey left him alone on a little island, where he was attacked by a bear. The bear attack caused him to re-evaluate his life. He recovered, returned from the island, and actually allowed himself to change. This involved facing his demons.
Cole had to realize that he wasn’t the most important person the world, and that the world did not revolve around him. Being in nature showed him this. Cole had to forgive himself, and eventually get Peter Driscal (the boy he attacked) to forgive him, at least partially.
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