Touching Spirit Bear

by Ben Mikaelsen

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What are the conflict(s) the main character of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen goes through?

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The book, Touching Spirit Bear, by Ben Mikaelsen, is full of conflicts for the protagonist, Cole.

Cole is abused by his father, and his mother does nothing to help him. When he gets in trouble, he is turned in by a classmate, Peter. Ultimately, looking for paybacks, Cole beats Peter up. These are all examples of man vs man.

For breaking and entering, Cole's choices are limited, however, his parole officer, Garvey, arranges for Cole to live on an island off the coast of Alaska, completing the Tlingit tribe's Circle Justice, an experience all but Cole hopes will turn his life around. The conflicts represented here are man vs society.

Cole has inner-demons he must deal with as well. He has been abused, shuffled around through the system, and is ultimately left on the island for rehabilitation, angry and alone and very resentful. He has no desire to change. Cole's response to these circumstances are examples of man vs self.

Finally, Cole confronts the Spirit Bear, trying first to frighten it and then to kill it. The enormous creature mauls him, and a major storm hits the island as Cole lies wounded on the ground. Cole is near death, struggling to stay alive. These are examples of man vs nature.

By the story's end, Cole wants to change, but has also formed a bond with nature which will save his life by diverting him from his former path. Having a sense of oneness with nature provides Cole with a sense of peace, something that came to him when he nearly died. By the end of the story, Cole wants to "fix" things with Peter, as well as help Peter help himself (because he is suicidal), and it is on the island, in nature's embrace, that Cole believes the two young man can succeed, with the aid of the Spirit Bear.

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