Who is the antagonist in Woodsong?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could argue that the antagonist in Woodsong is nature herself. Paulsen must overcome the harshness of the Alaskan landscape if he's to compete successfully in this challenging sled race. Though Paulsen develops a deep, abiding respect for nature due to his experiences in Alaska—and also those of his previous life in Minnesota—that respect is still tinged by a certain fear. Paulsen is acutely aware that, no matter how much he respects nature, it still has the power to destroy him, especially in this neck of the woods. This, above all, is what makes Mother Nature his antagonist in Woodsong—and a very formidable one, at that.

Equally, one could also say that perhaps Paulsen is his own antagonist, for he must overcome himself and his own fears in order to run the Iditarod. Paulsen is not just competing against the other sleds, or the harshness of the Alaskan winter, but also against himself. He knows that if he can rise above his innermost fears, then he stands a good chance of staying the course.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Woodsong, there is no traditional antagonist. Instead, Gary Paulsen faces off against nature as he grows up in the north and later lives in an isolated home with his wife and family.

Paulsen sees both the beauty and the danger of nature throughout the book. He sees a deer torn apart by wolves, and as he watches them begin to eat her alive, he has a realization. The wolves—and by extension, the harshness of nature—are not necessarily bad. They just are what they are. He says that it would be wrong for him to expect them to be anything else.

When Paulsen decides to run the Iditarod, he tests himself and his team of dogs against nature. Though he is injured at times and occasionally strained to the point of hallucination, he still completes the race. He finds joy in nature, even though nature itself is the only thing that presents danger throughout the book—whether it's in the form of a hungry bear or in the form of an extremely low temperature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Illustration of a paper plane soaring out of a book

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial