Study Guide

Touching Spirit Bear Isolation

By Ben Mikaelsen


Part 1, Chapter 1

Finally his parents quit trying to visit. Even Nathaniel Blackwood quit stopping by except when hearings and depositions required his presence. Cole didn't like the lawyer. Blackwood was a stiff man and spoke artificially, as if he were addressing an audience through a microphone. (1.30)

With the way that Cole's parents treat him, it's no wonder he doesn't believe anyone cares about him. Even his very own parents stop visiting him when he's arrested…even though he's their only child. Ouch.

Cole thought back to all the people at home who had tried to help him over the years. He hated their fake concern. They didn't really care what happened to him. They were gutless—he could see it in their eyes. They were afraid, glad to be rid of him. They pretended to help only because they didn't know what else to do. (1.14)

Cole really doesn't trust that people like him or really want to help him. He's convinced people are only nice to him because they're scared of his unpredictable violent behavior—otherwise, they'd just ignore him.

Chapter 2

Sudden hot tears clouded Cole's vision. This was called Circle Justice, but it was no different than being in a jail. Once again he was being abandoned by people who wanted to get rid of him. His parents were probably glad he was a million miles away from their world. They wanted him locked up like a caged animal. (2.59)

The first time Cole goes through the Circle Justice experience, he doesn't trust it because he feels like it's just a way for the world to get rid of him. He doesn't believe that they're actually trying to help him.

Cole Matthews

Cole felt a sudden rush of anger and jerked away. Why did everybody always have to touch him? He didn't need anyone's help. What he needed was for the world to butt out. "Aren't you guys ever leaving?" he snapped. (2.41)

Edwin and Garvey are the first people who are truly nice to Cole, but instead of appreciating it, he pushes them away. It totally weirds him out that they're invested in his well-being.

Chapter 3

Cole rocked back and forth on his feet. Nobody cared about him. Nobody understood him. Nobody knew what it was like living with parents who wished he wasn't alive. (3.2)

Talk about wallowing in self-pity. Cole has a seriously hard time forming relationships with people; instead, he just assumes everyone else hates him and wants him gone forever.

Chapter 8

All of the landscape, the air, the trees, the animals, the water, the rain, all seemed to be part of something bigger. They moved in harmony, bending and flowing, twisting and breathing, as if connected. But Cole felt alone and apart. (8.25)

Even though Cole has been sent to the island in order to reflect on his mistakes and learn how he's part of a bigger picture, he still sees himself as apart from everything and everyone—even nature.

Chapter 22

Cole felt helpless as he watched the Tlingit elder disappear across the water. This time he stayed barely long enough to unload supplies. Didn't he care? Wasn't he mad? Cole returned to camp and spent the rest of the day carving. (22.15)

Though Cole wants a second chance at being on the island, he has a hard time whenever Edwin leaves. After all, it's tough being all by himself, unable to talk to a single other person.

Chapter 24
Cole Matthews

On Christmas Eve, Cole sat alone in front of his twisted little tree as the wind outside moaned through the treetops. Did anyone anywhere miss him at this moment? He went to bed early that night, not knowing the answer to that question.

The next time Edwin visited, Cole said to him, "Christmas was really lonely. I feel like the whole world has forgotten about me." (24.27-28)

Cole's gotten somewhat used to being alone on the island, but spending Christmas all alone is still pretty depressing. Even cutting down his own Christmas tree and making ornaments out of foil doesn't raise his spirits.

During the long nights, Cole thought a lot about Garvey, about his mom, and about his dad. Had his father changed at all? And what about Peter? Cole still could not think of a way to help him. Edwin had said during his last visit that Peter was growing more bitter and depressed, hardly talking to anyone, even his parents. (24.22)

Even though Cole and Peter don't exactly get along (especially after what Cole did to Peter), they're still suffering from something similar—this sense that no one in the world understands or cares about them.

Being confined allowed Cole more time for schoolwork, but also more time to think about being alone. Some nights he cried himself to sleep from loneliness. He couldn't help it. The silence became overpowering, and he longed to hear another human voice. (24.21)

Things aren't so bad on the island when Cole can be outside all day, but the winter becomes pretty brutal. When he's alone in his cabin, he starts to feel pretty darn lonely and wonder when he'll talk to another person again.