Analysis “The Bear” by Galway Kinnell Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: May 2nd, 2019

“The Bear” by Galway Kinnell is a poem that talks about a process of the hunt on a bear. The author makes it obvious that a hunter is an experienced man who has done this many times before. He knows the specifics of the bear and the way it behaves. The first lines of the poem start from afar, talking about the slightest signs of the presence of the bear. It is interesting to see that the bear is characterized not by the sight of his body but by the steam that comes out from under the snow. This little detail tells the reader a lot about the bear.

Right away it is possible to see that the bear is under the snow and still in the process of getting its last days of sleep. As the hunter mentions that it is late winter, supposes the fact that the bear will eventually come out in search of food. When the hunter says that he is aware of the bear and knows how the bear smells, means that he is extremely familiar with the hunting and especially, bears, as the unique scent is characteristic and distinct.

The hunter is also a good tracker, as he knows the ways and paths that the bear takes. He uses a tool that is not modern, which is a rib of a wolf. For the man to know this way of hunting, he must have got this knowledge from people who have lived in the cold regions for a long time, and this knowledge got passed down through generations.

It is possible that the hunter himself is a descendant of people who hunted bears for many years and is aware of the best and relatively safest and easiest ways to kill a bear. It is evident that the hunter partakes in the process not because of good sport but due to necessity. The place where he supposedly lives and hunts must be very secluded, and the food sources are scarce.

The bear is on the top of the food chain, and the hunter knows that to get as much meat as possible, he must hunt the carnivore that has no equals in the wild. It might be that the hunter has minimal possessions because he does not have a gun to protect himself with and he makes it apparent that his business is a risky one. He takes excellent care observing when his “weapon” is gone and this means the bear has taken the bait.

The hunter knows of the harsh conditions that he must take on, the limitations of the hunt but it is obvious that he has no choice and this is the case between life and death. It takes him some time to track the bear and then, when he finds first definite signs that the bear has passed through, his hopes get raised immediately. The way he describes the process is very graphic and full of imagery. The reader feels as if present with the hunter and can see and feel the cold and the expectancy of the bear.

The hunter then makes it known that he must hurry and catch up to the bear. He follows the tracks, holding his weapons ready. Even though he probably will not need to face the bear and fight, he gets himself prepared for the worst. This is another confirmation that he is very experienced and knows the process step by step.

Another indication that he has run out of food is his description of getting “a turd.” The reader is made to realize that the hunter must have eaten his last food just before the hunt and that he was taking great care in rationing his resources, trying to prolong the bear hunt as much as possible, not having any food to bring for the hunt. It is quite surprising that it takes that long, but in reality, this is precisely how it happens. The danger of a direct face off with the bear comes at a high cost.

The hunter relies on his endurance, knowing that it can be done and this is the method he chose consciously. It has taken a week, and all he eats is “bear blood.” When he finally comes upon the bear, he is relieved because he knows that now he is guaranteed food and rest. When he describes the bear’s eyes as “pretty,” it shows that he has great respect for the animal and the only reason he had to kill him was for food and his own life.

It is rather sad that he had to put the bear through such agony and suffering. It seems it would be easier to run a blade through the bear’s heart, which is of course, risky or shoot him with a gun but this is also questionable, as the bear could take the shot and charge the hunter. The poem makes it undoubtedly clear that the hunt was necessary and the hunter had no choice, it was either his life or the bear’s.

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