Theme of Forgiveness in ‘Touching Spirit Bear’ by Ben Mikaelsen Analytical Essay

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The novel “Touching Spirit Bear” by Ben Mikaelsen Book taught me new lessons like ancient traditions can solve modern problems. The major theme in this book teaches us about healing and forgiveness. It tells us that you need to overcome past before you can move forward. The book explores the transition of a young boy by undergoing healing through, spirituality, forgiveness, and redemption. In addition, it shows the power of nature to change someone with justice. We even learn that animals can teach us life lessons like forgiveness and people can learn from them.

Many of us think that punishment and justice are connected. Most of us agree that punishment is the most effective way to work with people who committed a crime. However, the book Touching Spirit Bear talks about justice should heal but not punish anyone. Cole a teenager, who is the main character from the book was a very angry kid. He committed many crimes in his fifteen years of life. Each time he committed a crime, he was punished like going to the detention center or paying an imposed fine. Also, his anger was a result of self-loathing.

His parents were both negligent and abusive. Cole turned his anger outward and committed a crime trying to rob a hardware store and attacking his classmate Peter. He was punished so often, but Cole never made any changes. He was given a new way of justice through Circle Justice. He was told by Garvey that it is harder than jail time in some ways because a person has to change.

“Everybody is a part of the healing, including people from the community—anybody who cares. But healing is much harder than standard punishment. Healing requires taking responsibility for your actions.”(Chapter 1)

This helped Cole change a lot. That’s part of the long road was coming to an understanding that he only he could forgive himself, forgive others and control his anger. He made those changes because he was recommended to go to an island to “heal” himself instead of going to jail.

The Circle Justice was a very unique way of healing the offenders rather than punishing them. The system strongly believed that healing was an important part of justice and everyone deserves an opportunity to be healed. Native People introduced the tradition/concept. Native People knew this concept would work for a long time and believed that healing could make changes. The author showed that Cole was one of their successful person who was helped by this system. The book “Touching Spirit Bear” tells readers that healing is way more important than punishment. Also, punishment does not equal justice.

There are a lot of scenes in the book that took place in nature. When Cole was on the island, there was an attack of him and bear which taught him a lot. Cole tried to attack the bear every time he saw it. It was a turning point for Cole when the Spirit Bear almost mauled him to death and attacked him back. Cole attacked the bear thinking that the bear would be afraid of him and it was the only way he could protect himself.

However, he learned that Bear also felt the same way that Cole felt when he tried to attack him. It was the only reason that it attacked Cole because it wanted to protect himself. It clearly taught him a lesson that how we treat the animals, we are also being treated the same way. He learned that animals feel the same way as people do. In addition, Cole learned different animal dances when he was on anisland. Wolf dance taught him that people need to help others and mice dance helped him learn to be confident and determined.

The most important lesson I found in this book is that how we learn to forgive others. The book shows us that you must forgive yourself in order to move on with yourself. In the book we learn that Peter was an important part of Cole’s journey. Understanding how Peter and Cole forgive each other showed us clearly that forgiveness was an important part of Cole’s path to success. Cole was a very angry person and showed his hatred by beating Peter and burning the cabin at the island and was hurt by his parents. Cole had to forgive himself and others for their actions. The process makes Cole become a different person when he is on an island and he takes responsibility for what he did and not blame others.

Peter initially hated Cole for what he did to him. Cole harmed him mentally and physically. He was so hurt that he tried to commit suicide twice. Peter, did not forgive Cole and wanted revenge. However, when Peter arrives on the island, it is was hard for him to be friends with Cole, initially. They slowly come to an understanding. Peter later realizes that Cole has changed. Peter learns to forgive others and forgave Cole and became friends with him. Seeing how he is being treated by Peter, Cole becomes a much less angry person.

“Touching Spirit Bear” had taught many meaning and thoughtful life lessons. Readers can learn that ancient traditions like healing could solve modern problems. Another way to understand is that forgiveness is a way to heal ourselves. Revenge and Anger do not help people but instead traps people with memories of the past. The best life lessons we could learn and remember is from Cole and Circle justice example.

The concept of animals and animal dancing teaching us to learn many things like how we can learn to forgive each other is very helpful. As a society, often children are thrown away as if there is no hope.However, if we give kids like Cole who are troubled youth, a chance to heal and forgive like the book can benefit them. The kids who face their past can finally have the courage to face the future by healing and forgiving and moving in a better direction. However, the path which Cole took to face his past is not in our traditional Juvenile system.


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Theme of Forgiveness in ‘Touching Spirit Bear’ by Ben Mikaelsen Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/theme-of-forgiveness-in-touching-spirit-bear-by-ben-mikaelsen/

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