Study Guide

Touching Spirit Bear Perseverance

By Ben Mikaelsen


Part 1, Chapter 1

Cole couldn't figure Garvey out. He knew the probation officer was super busy, so why did he visit so often? What was his angle? Everybody had an angle—something they wanted. Until Cole could figure out what Garvey wanted, he resented the visits—he didn't need a friend or a babysitter. (1.32)

Garvey's stubbornness and determination to stick with his client freaks Cole out. He has no idea why the probation officer is so committed to making sure that Cole is reformed. Is this guy obsessed?

Chapter 10

Cole grunted angrily—he didn't want to die yet. Yes, someday that would be a part of his circle. Someday he would lie in his own waste and be eaten by maggots. But not now! Suddenly, in that moment, Cole made a simple decision.

He wanted to live. (10.16-17)

Things are looking pretty grim for Cole. He's torn to shreds, starving, and lying out in the cold rain. Nonetheless, he's determined to carry on, even though it's not going to be easy. He's not going to die here on this island.

Chapter 15

"We still believe in you and think there's hope," Garvey said. "Because of that, we've stuck our necks out so far, we feel like two giraffes. last night we convinced the Circle to release you to our custody." (15.59)

Even after Cole blows his first chance at being on the island, Edwin and Garvey still believe in him. Everyone else wants him to go straight to jail, but Edwin and Garvey are willing to give him another chance.

Cole Matthews

"You two are the only ones who ever cared about me," he blurted. "It's not like I don't appreciate what you're doing. But I screwed everything up. I'm going to jail—can't you see that? Why don't you just leave me alone now and quit wasting your time?" (15.56)

Cole just doesn't get why Edwin and Garvey try so hard with him. He feels like a lost cause—so why do these two men believe in him so much? Why do they want to help him?

Chapter 21

Cole drove himself hard after Edwin and Garvey left, staying busy every waking minute of each day. If he had to spend a whole year on this island, he had no intention of living like an animal. Each morning, he soaked in the pond and carried the ancestor rock. Afternoons, he worked improving camp. (21.1)

In Cole's second trip to the island, he actually works hard to make the experience work. He doesn't laze around after Edwin and Garvey leave—instead he pushes himself to stay busy and make personal progress.

Chapter 22

Many days Cole still fought hard to escape his familiar rage. It kept reappearing for no reason he could understand. At these times, he concentrated on funny and happy things. No matter how hard he tried, however, he still couldn't bring himself to dance the dance of anger. Long frustrated hours beside the fire brought angry movements, but the dance refused to come to him. (22.16)

It's not exactly easy for Cole to let go of the rage that's been a part of him for his entire life. But this time, he's decided that he won't end up like his father, who has let his anger ruin his family. Instead, he's going to do everything he can to get rid of his anger.

Cole also continued to explore and look for the Spirit Bear, but still the bear did not show itself. Each night Cole tried without luck to find the feelings to dance the dance of anger. Weeks passed, but the large blank space he had reserved at the bottom of the totem for his anger carving remained empty. (22.10)

Spirit Bear remains pretty elusive during Cole's second stay at the island, but he's not going to give up. He knows that the bear is out there somewhere and that they'll meet again in better circumstances.

Chapter 24

Cole stubbornly kept visiting the pond for his morning soak even though the water numbed him in minutes. Because of the bitter winds that winter brought, Cole spent more and more time holed up inside the warm cabin. (24.17)

Wow, Cole is really taking his time on the island seriously this time around. He's determined to do everything that Edwin and Garvey tell him to, even soaking in that freezing cold pond when winter is approaching. Brr…

Chapter 25
Cole Matthews

Cole felt no anger, but he was tired of trying to prove himself to Edwin. He was tired of trying to prove himself to the world. "There are two choices," he said. "Give Peter the same chance I've had here on the island, or give up and watch him commit suicide. Which would you pick?" (25.9)

Cole's been working super hard to change himself, but not everyone is convinced of his progress. He knows that he's going to have to do more—especially for Peter—if he's going to make things right.

Chapter 26

Garvey pointed toward the shore. "Pay me back by not giving up on Peter."

Cole looked out the window and saw that Peter was still sitting on the shore, but the Snickers bar was gone. Cole smiled. "I won't give up on him." (26.47-48)

After everything that's happened between Cole and Peter, it's going to be a long road to making amends and coming to any sort of understanding, especially since Peter refuses to speak to or look at Cole. But Cole is willing to work hard to gain the other kid's forgiveness.