The Bear by William Faulkner

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William Faulkner’s novella “The Bear” from his collection of works, Go Down Moses, is a symbolic exploration of the relationship between man and nature in the eyes of a young boy. The heart of the issue, the warped idea of the ownership of land, is revealed thought the clash of man and nature in a wild chase that ends only in blood and death. The prey is nature itself, represented by a bear, while the hunters are men, full of greed and destructive possessiveness, pursuing that which they do not understand. Ike’s idea of the bear, presented in section 1 of the novella, expresses the idea of symbolism in relation to the bear and to the hunters and what the battle between the two represents.

The bear itself, Old Ben, is a symbol for nature in what he spiritually embodies. He is described by Ike as being “too big,” a monster that “loomed and towered” (193) over the young boy, the bear was something to fear. Men “tried to ride it down” (193) and shoot bullets into it’s hide, but the bear lived on, never hurt or phased by the “little puny humans.” (194) It continued to pillage the farms near the woods, stealing crops and mutilating animals, earning for himself the name of Old Ben and an infamy “like a living man.” (192) As soon as Old Ben took on an identity, he became more than just a bear, but rather a symbol for nature as a whole. Ike refers to Old Ben as big, which is parallel to the name he has bestowed upon the woods, the “big woods.” (192) The transition from beast to spiritual entity, while retaining fear, represent how man views nature as terrifying and violent, something he must conquer. The hunters’ adamant desire to destroy Old Ben shows their truly destructive nature, as the men refuse to acknowledge that they are the ones invading nature and slowly destroying it for their own benefit. Old Ben is a victim of greed, yet he shows no fear, he refuses to hide, and thus expresses nature’s passion for freedom and its indomitable will that refuses to be...
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