Winterdance, a non-fiction narrative by Gary Paulsen, is a firsthand account of Paulsen’s journey in the Iditarod, where the main character, Paulsen, exemplifies bildunsroman throughout the book by altering his perspective of animals. Paulsen’s attitude toward nature changes dramatically as well throughout Winterdance due to his companionship with the sled dogs, experience with other animals along the race, and adjustment to trail life.
Not only did the dogs guide him physically through the Iditarod, they also guided him mentally. At first his difficulty with training the dogs led him to believe that “any sane man in his forties and had a good career going would quit now and go back to the world of sanity” (9,) showing that he is overwhelmed by the dogs and thinks that this is a crazy idea. Later, he finds that being with the dogs “is an experience that transcends. A way to understand the joyfulness of living and devotion” (37,) showing that he has developed a strong bond with them after training with them after months of training. In his relationship with the dogs, he finds a pure happiness that he never would’ve expected to find in a non-human creature. When the race concludes, he wonders “how can it be to live without the dogs?” (256,) exemplifying that he has gained something that could never be taken away from him, the relationship and love between his dogs.
Prior to the Iditarod, Paulsen lived in Montana, where he “raised and slaughtered and cooked [our] own meat, and [I] did not think of cattle as having a life in some way…But in some way [I] thought of them as non thinking, non being sources of protein” (24,) showing that he took no interest in the animals that he slaughtered, neither did he understand them. After the start of the Iditarod, a deer comes up to the sled, and instead of killing it out of self defense (as most mushers would do), because “it seemed like such a waste- in some ways like killing children, very sweet children”...
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