What is the significance of the allusion to Keats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn" in Faulkner's "The Bear"?
Let us remember that this Ode of Keats raises the question of beauty and truth, and also presents timeless beauty that stretches above and beyond temporal humanity and our ability to perceive it. In the poem, the narrator displays rather mixed emotions about this beauty. On the one hand, being aware of it is a wonderful thing, because we see ourselves in our proper context and are able to appreciate and enjoy true beauty for what it is. But at the same time, the narrator is equally depressed by his perception of this true beauty, because it inevitably reminds him of his own mortality and the way in which he is so ephemeral compared to eternal beauty.
In "The Bear," the allusion makes us think of one of the key themes, which is the relationship of man in nature. Old Ben is of course the central symbol that dominates the short story, and the curious timeless sense of beauty and fascination that he manages to exert amongst the characters that hunt him so inexorably can be related to the timeless sense of beauty that Keats evokes in his Ode. The mixed feelings that the hunters have about Old Ben and nature as a result therefore parallel the mixed feelings of the speaker in "Ode to a Grecian Urn."