Study Guide

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge Man and the Natural World

By Michael Punke

Man and the Natural World

Chapter 3: August 24, 1823

He heard her size before he saw it. Not just the track of the thick underbrush that the sow moved aside like short grass, but the growl itself, a sound deep like thunder or a falling tree. (1.3.10)

The bear that attacks Glass is presented more like a force of nature than a flesh-and-blood animal. And that makes sense—it mirrors the abject terror Glass feels when this massive creature is bearing down on him. Yikes. If this is what the relationship between man and nature is going to be like, then we're hopping on the next bus to the city.

Chapter 7: September 2, 1823 – Morning

From the east he felt anew the powerful pull of his ties to the civilized world. [...] From the west he felt the tantalizing lure of terra incognita. (1.7.89)

Although Glass still has ties to civilization, he finds himself drawn to the wild frontier like a moth to a flame. It's not that he loves doing outdoorsy stuff. It's not that he's running away from his real life. It's not even about the money. On its most basic level, Glass's love for nature is a reflection of his love for freedom.

Chapter 8: September 2, 1823

Glass thought about the snake, surviving, thriving for a decade on the strength of its brutal attributes. And then a single mistake [...] dead and devoured. (1.8.9)

Only Glass would be able to empathize with a rattlesnake that would gladly eat his face off given the chance. What's more, he seems to identify with it. Weird, huh? In case you haven't realized it yet, Glass has a rather unique relationship with the natural world—unlike his peers, he sees himself as a part of it.

Chapter 10: September 15, 1823

Glass had glimpsed [...] buffalo [...] on a hundred different occasions. Yet the sight of the animals never failed to fill him with awe. (1.10.6)

Spoiler: America's once-massive population of buffalo is eventually destroyed by the rise of railroads and industrialization, as well as by wasteful, out-of-control hunting by the white frontiersmen. Ouch. Because we know things like this (y'know, being in the future and all), these seemingly small details end up taking on massive importance.

The white wolf took another step toward Glass, who remembered suddenly the sickening sensation of the bear's teeth, ripping at his flesh. What have I done? (1.10.27)

When Glass decides to take on a pack of wolves, we were pretty sure that the dude had gone bananas. He should know more than anyone how quickly a wild animal can make mincemeat out of us fleshy humans, right? Even after he walks away victorious, we don't know whether to commend him for his bravery or slap him for his stupidity.

The wolf had never seen an animal like the one that appeared today, but he understood precisely where it fit in the pecking order. (1.10.36)

We love that the narrative makes a brief aside to present the wolf's thoughts on Glass. What's more, the fact that the wolf sees Glass as another "animal" in the frontier's "pecking order" shows how wild our wild man has become. Although really, of course, in a sense we're all just animals in a certain pecking order, no matter how much we may not want to admit it.

Chapter 20: December 15, 1823

From heaven to earth, the Big Horn Mountains stood before him. [...] Nothing in Glass's twenty years on the plains had prepared him for such mountains. (2.20.31)

Once again, we see Glass's fear of the natural world evaporate as soon as he sees its full majesty. This, we think, is why Glass will remain an explorer forever, despite it probably being in his best interests to just retire already. He can't get this buzz anywhere else, and now that he's had it, he can't get enough.

Glass became suddenly aware of the sound of the river. It was an odd thing to notice, he thought. He had slung to the river for weeks. (2.20.3)

Once he heals up from the bear attack and gets a good meal under his belt, Glass starts to feel relief from being out in the wild unknown. This might sound strange, but it's very much in line with the nature-loving dude we've come to know and love.

Chapter 23: March 6, 1824

And if Glass believed in a god, surely it resided in this great western expanse. (2.23.3)

We couldn't have said it any better ourselves. As Glass falls more and more in love with the frontier environment, his awe grows into an almost religious fervor.

Chapter 28: May 7, 1824

Jim [...] smiled at the infinite prospect of what might lay up the canyon, of what might lay on the mountaintops, of what might lay beyond. (2.28.22)

Like Glass, Jim Bridger feels more comfortable in the middle of nowhere than in the middle of a city. You know, if it weren't for that whole betrayal thing, we think that Bridger and Glass could have become pretty great friends. Oh, well.