What are three main lessons Gary learns in Woodsong?

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In Woodsong, Gary learns three lessons from his interaction with the bear, Scarhead. The first lesson he learns is to not lose his temper at a bear or any wild animal that could easily kill him. Gary reports that he is already having a bad day when Scarhead comes up from the south, following the smell of the burning trash. Gary has tried to be smart about when to burn the trash, waiting for the breeze to blow from the North so the bears and other wild animals are not attracted to the smell of food, but on this day, Scarface is unluckily already south, so the scent of the burning trash carries toward him. When Gary sees the bear in the trash, he narrates:

I picked up a stick, threw it at him, and yelled, “Get out of here.” I have made many mistakes in my life, and will probably make many more, but I hope never to throw a stick at a bear again.

It is obvious from this quote that Gary has reacted with a temper toward the bear; he lost his patience and made the “mistake” of showing aggression toward Scarhead. In the future, Gary will not lose his temper around an animal that could kill him before he could even start to run away or fetch his gun.

The second lesson Gary learns is that the bear does not see Gary as a threat. After Gary throws the stick at the bear and realizes his mistake, all he can do is look into the bear’s small eyes and wait to see if he will kill him or not. Scarface is a real threat to Gary, and luckily, the bear seems to not view Gary as a real threat, because he eventually turns around and returns to the trash. Gary says,

Whether I lived or died depended on him, on his thinking, on his ideas about me—whether I was worth the bother or not. I did not think then.

This quote shows that the narrator learns that his life is inconsequential to such an intimidating creature; he needs to be mindful of his own human frailty.

This lesson leads into the third lesson of the story, which is that man is just another animal—and not a very dominant one. Although many would not agree with his perspective, Gary does say that he views himself as nothing more than an animal by the end of the story—not superior to animals. The narrator keeps animals for a living and lives in the wilderness; he is a human, which means he has a history of dominion over animals. Dominion is a fancy word for being a leader, ruler, and caretaker of animals. For many people of faith, this dominion is God-granted; for others who do not hold that religious belief, mankind is still often considered at the top of the food chain because of his superior intelligence. However, Gary learns respect for the wild creatures during his encounter with Scarhead, and he also learns about his own feebleness in comparison with wild creatures. Thus, Gary says that

when it is all boiled down, I am nothing more and nothing less than any other animal in the woods.

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