Crossing Thresholds - A
May 26, 2014
Evil or Innocence:
Delving Deeper Into the Bear
"The Bear" by Galway Kinnell represents a hunter's mental and physical journey from the realm of humans into the chaotic world that is the animal kingdom. He is alone as a man, but finds assemblage among those who are of a different species. Winter makes everything - emotions, actions, hunger - darker and more intense, but spring brings the light. Cessation claims a victim, the bear, but vitality prevails as the man is saved. Life experiences have the power to transform and move us from isolation into community, from winter into spring, from death into life.
To begin, the hunter does not find human community; however, he does encounter animal community in the form of a bear family and a flock of geese as illustrated in the 7th section:
I awaken I think.
Marshlights reappear, geese come trailing again up the flyway. In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear lies, licking lumps of smeared fur and drizzly eyes into shapes with her tongue.
This passage really emphasizes the plurality of the animals around the hunter. Unlike other sections of the poem, this does not just include the speaker and the bear; in fact, it does not mention the dead bear at all [1A]. The word "geese" implies that there are many and the mother bear tending to her cubs shows that there is life all around. As for tone, the speaker seems to be questioning if he is still in a dream or in real life. "I awaken I think" suggests that there is doubt in his mind. How Kinnell illustrates the bear cubs is interesting as well. He writes of them as "lumps of smeared fur"...