Study Guide

Touching Spirit Bear Guilt and Blame

By Ben Mikaelsen

Guilt and Blame

Part 1, Chapter 1
Cole Matthews

"You'll wear them inside out for the first two weeks of your banishment to show humility and shame," Edwin said, his voice hard as stone. Then he turned and shuffled up the dock toward his old rusty pickup. (1.6)

Cole won't take responsibility for his actions, so Edwin and Garvey force him to do so. If he won't feel guilty or bad about beating up Peter, they'll make him wear his clothes inside out in order to show his shame and humility.

Cole figured he wouldn't even be here if Peter Driscal had known how to fight back. Instead, Peter was hospitalized. Doctors' reports warned he might suffer permanent damage. "Serves him right," Cole mumbled when he was first told of Peter's condition. (1.24)

Even being confronted with Peter Driscal's horrible injuries—and the fact that he might have permanent damage—doesn't make Cole feel guilty or responsible. Instead, he blames the whole thing on Peter for antagonizing him in the first place.

Chapter 3
Cole Matthews

"I don't care if he forgives me."

Garvey rubbed the back of his neck, then glanced up toward the ceiling. "How come everything is always about you? This forgiveness isn't for you. Until Peter forgives you, he won't heal." 3.60-61)

The thing about accepting what he's done and seeking forgiveness from Peter is that it won't just benefit Cole—it's actually a way to help Peter heal, too. He also has to move on from this terrible incident.

Chapter 4

Cole studied Peter. Peter hadn't sounded like this before. Cole wiped his sweaty hands on his pants. It wasn't like he had meant to hurt anyone. Besides, this wouldn't have happened if Peter had kept his mouth shut. (4.44)

Again, Cole has a really hard time admitting it's his fault that Peter is in this situation. He feels uncomfortable seeing Peter's medical problems, but he still maintains that it's all Peter's fault—the kid shouldn't have messed with him.

Chapter 5

Cole felt no regret for having burned the supplies and the shelter. Nor did he regret hurting Peter. This was all somebody else's fault. If it weren't for his parents, Peter, and the stupid Healing Circle, he wouldn't even be here. Somebody would pay for what was happening. He would get revenge, especially against those who had wanted him in jail. (5.22)

Uh-oh… Things aren't going too well on the island and Cole has found himself entirely without shelter or supplies. Instead of taking the fall for this, though (you know, since he burned down his shelter), he instead blames everyone else.

Chapter 6

"Scars run deep." Garvey stared intently at Cole's father, who sat unflinching. "I do know this: Cole isn't the only problem here tonight. He is only a symptom of a family and a community that has somehow broken down. If we can't find solutions, we all fail, we all share the guilt, and we all pay a terrible price." (6.15)

Even though Garvey always tells Cole not to wallow in self-pity or blame everyone else for his problems, he wants him to understand that he does see how Cole's father is responsible. He isn't turning a blind eye to the abuse Cole has experienced.

Chapter 9

That's how Cole felt—he didn't owe anyone anything. Nobody had ever cared for him, so why should he care about anyone else? He wouldn't even be here on this island, injured, if it weren't for other people and their lame ideas. Nothing had been his fault. (9.8)

When he's attacked by Spirit Bear (after trying to kill the creature in the first place), Cole still thinks he's innocent. Nothing that has happened to him is due to his bad decisions; nothing is ever his fault…or so Cole's thinking goes, anyway.

Chapter 19

Slowly, Cole let go of his ancestors and allowed the stone to become his anger. He knew that he had to quit blaming others, including his father, for his problems. As long as blame still existed, so would his anger. (19.56)

When Cole starts accepting that his life is his responsibility—and that even his father isn't to blame for everything—he also starts healing and moving on. Now that he's aware that every action has a consequence, he'll be more careful.


"It's not about supper," said Garvey. "It's about the chip on your shoulder. You still think life is a free ride. You're still blaming the world for everything and looking for the easiest way to get by. It's only been two days, and already you've got your attitude back." (19.17)

Garvey sees right through all of Cole's lies and deception. He knows that Cole's attitude means he hasn't changed and still blames everyone else for his problems instead of accepting responsibility.

Chapter 23
Cole Matthews

When waves from the splash reached shore, he called into the darkness, "I'm sorry!" He screamed louder, "Please forgive me! I didn't mean to hurt Peter!" (23.21)

It takes Cole a while to admit what he's done to Peter and even longer to ask for forgiveness. For starters, he has to beg for forgiveness when no one else is there, yelling it out to the whole empty island.