Animistic Mysticism in Faulkner's "The Bear"

The religious vision of Faulkner's "The Bear" is considered by many critics to be a kind of animistic mysticism, even though it invokes some references to Christianity.  The following are some ways in which that mysticism takes form:

bear.jpg (4593 bytes)Initiation (Mircea Ekiade):

"[T]he novice emerges from his ordeal endowed with a totally different being from that which he possessed before his initiation; he has become another.   . . . Initiation introduces the candidate into the human community and into the world of spiritual and cultural values . . . he learns the mystical relations between the tribe and the Supernatural Beings as those relations were established at the beginning of Time . . . Initiatory death is indispensable for the beginning of spiritual life.   Its function must be understood in relation to what it prepares: birth to a higher mode of being."

In what ways does Ike's education in hunting by Sam Fathers represent a kind of initiation? (184, 186-87, 201, 227)

bear.jpg (4593 bytes)Ritual Epiphany

  1. At ten, Ike hears Old Ben.
  2. Two weeks later, Ike senses that Ben is looking at him.
  3. Ike lays aside gun, watch, and compass, and sees Old Ben alone (198-200).
  4. At age thirteen, Ike, carrying Walter Ewell's rifle,  sees Ben from a distance.
  5. Ike saves the fyce from Ben (202-203).
  6. Old Ben escapes Lion and the other hunters.
  7. The next November, Lion and General Compson draw blood, but Old Ben escapes.
  8. At sixteen, Lion and Boon bring Old Ben down (230-231).

Is there a particular pattern in Old Ben's appearances to Ike (and the others)?  Why must Ike lay aside his gun, etc.? Are these epiphanies? (192, 195)

bear.jpg (4593 bytes)Mana: "Impersonal supernatural force or power that may be concentrated in objects or persons and that may be inherited, acquired, or conferred."

Are there instances of mana in the story?  If so, why should we construe them as such? What do they suggest about the story as a whole? (207, 227-28)

bear.jpg (4593 bytes)Totem: the totem represents the guiding animal spirit that a tribe or clan identifies with.  It carries with a particular spiritual power that is often regionalized.  When the totem is lost, the power leaves the tribe as well as the region.

Is Old Ben a totem?  Or is he something more?   Explain. (185, 236-37)

bear.jpg (4593 bytes)Pride and Humility: One of the primary themes of the hunter's code is that of the balance of pride and humility. (184, 188, 217, 223).

How is this theme present in Ike's actions? In Sam Fathers'? Is it present in anyone else?  Who does not possess one or both sides of the code?

forest.jpg (95386 bytes)

Other Questions
  1. Does Ben die of his own free will?
  2. What does the killing of Old Ben represent?  Should it happen?
  3. Why does Sam Fathers "quit" when Old Ben is murdered?
  4. What does Sam Fathers represent?
  5. Should Boon have been the one to kill Old Ben?
  6. Is the end of Part III tragic? Why or why not?
  7. What, then, is Faulkner's view of God?

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding