Student Question

In Faulkner's The Bear, how do the woods differ from the town?

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The Bear, by William Faulkner, is a story that has been collected in several forms; while it is most famously part of his collection Go Down, Moses, it properly exists as a whole piece, without the "fourth part" Faulkner added later (Wikipedia).

The story concerns a young man named Isaac, who is in the process of maturing, and jumps between several times in his life. He grew up and spends the bulk of his youth in the woods. The "fourth part," added later, concerns Isaac's life in town and his abandoning of his family's plantation because of his moral certainty that man is not meant to own land. Throughout, the woods are described in intimate, rugged terms:

He ranged the summer woods now, green with gloom... the earth which never completely dried and which crawled with snakes...
(Faulkner, The Bear, Google Books)

The town, where he finds a wife and the incomprehensible rules of money, is written in a breathless cacophany, sentances running into each other as Isaas tries to make sense of it all:

...they were married and it was the new country, his heritage too as it was the heritage of all, out of the earth...
... at one end opening upon the shabby hinder purlieus of stores and at the other adoor giving onto the railed balcony above the Square, with its curtained alcove where sat a cedar waterbucket and a sugar-bowl and sppon and tumbler and a wicker-covered demijohn of whiskey...
(Faulkner, The Bear, Google Books

The difference between them is in Isaac's knowledge of the woods as a place of naturalism, where things happen and animals exist without being bred for a reason, while the town is a place where men had applied their will and shaped things into their image. While he is never able to return to the woods of his youth, neither is he ever fully comfortable in the town.

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