Home | Reviews | Blog | Daily | Glossary | Orrin's Stuff | Email

The Bear ()

Nobel Prize Winners (1949)

The essence of political conservatism is the yearning for the best of the culture and moral clime of the past--the sense that something of value to our souls has been lost in the headlong rush of human social progress.  Political liberalism, on the other hand, assumes that man can radically improve upon centuries old social structures, cultural inheritances and moral codes.  But there is one area where the roles of the two are reversed and that is when it comes to the environment.  The American Left has a long standing love affair with nature; from Jefferson to Thoureau, Teddy Roosevelt to Al Gore, there is a pastoral strain to liberal politics, a kind of belief in an Edenic past and a nearly Biblical sense that man's attempts to control nature have a corrupting influence.

This sentiment has perhaps never been treated more beautifully in our Literature than in Faulkner's great short novel, The Bear.  The story of a succession of hunting seasons is basically a warning from Faulkner that as we destroy the wilderness we threaten the traditions and values of our society.  Nature is symbolized by the cagey ancient ursine, Old Ben.  Most of the tale is told by Ike McCaslin, who is 10 years old as it begins.  Initially he flounders through the woods, but as he surrenders himself to the primordial forces of Nature, he is able to sense the bear's presence.  Another year, when he sets aside his gun and compass and other accouterments of civilization, he is finally able to see the bear.  Gradually he earns his way into the aristocracy of the wild, until, together with Sam Fathers (part black, part Indian, he represents a kind of noble savage) and Boon Hogganbeck (a sort of elemental force of nature) and a suicidally fearless dog named Lion, he hunts down Old Ben after the bear violates the unwritten code of the woods by attacking a horse.  But even as Old Ben succumbs, he will take some of them with him and his parting signals the end of a way of life.

Despite some too obscure interior monologue passages, this is Faulkner's most accessible work.  It is the only Faulkner I've ever actually reread and it is so rife with symbolism and ulterior meanings, that you can always find something new in it.  And, for whatever reason, it is further evidence that sports writing brings out the best in almost every author (see also "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" by John Updike), in fact, it is often anthologized in Greatest Sports Story collections. Regardless of where you find it, or which version you read, it is well worth a shot.


Grade: (B+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -William Faulkner on the Web
    -William Faulkner Centennial Celebration (Random House)
    -Center for Faulkner Studies
    -William Faulkner (SQUARE BOOKS  Oxford, Mississippi)
    -Most Faulknerian
    -Mississippi Writers Page: William Faulkner (1897-1962)
    -William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
    -William (Cuthbert) Faulkner (1897-1962)(Kirjatso)
    -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Faulkner Bibliography by Works
    -ESSAY: The Thematic and Structural Function of Time in William Faulkner's "The Bear"  (Erinç Özdemir, Journal of American Studies of Turkey)
    -The Contemplative as Teacher:  Learning from Thomas Merton   by Thomas Del Prete
    -Traditional and Modern Values in the Works of William Faulkner (Anna Carnick, Brighton High School class of 1998)
    -Arthur F. Kinney, "Faulkner and Racism," Connotations 3.3 (1993-94): 265-278.
    -Go Down, Moses:  Resources
    -Wilderness: This first unit in Junior English will focus on the use of the wilderness in the literature.


i'm a chinese reader and i love this short story so much,but i've only read the chinese version.

- jill

- Apr-12-2007, 11:06


i haven't yet read his short story The Bear that's why i'm reading some of your comments about the authors's works to give me some highlights on it...

- gean

- Mar-15-2007, 01:57


I read William Faulkners' Light In August and The Bear. I feel like i accomplished something. He was a genius and a great tradition in American literature.

- Ted

- Mar-02-2007, 05:47


it sucked don't read it

- kyle

- Apr-12-2006, 13:51


Old Ben did not kill the hunting party's horse; it was Lion.

- dyrden

- Mar-13-2006, 22:33


I can't believe you people can even conceive of rating Faulkner's work when you don't even understand it. I'm sure all of you are aware that Faulkner is considered the greatest twentieth century American writer period. Whether you agree with a book's message or not, you're opinion is not indicative of its impact on society. A great work worth reading stimulates thought. Giving Faulkner a B- is unbelieveably naive. I'm not even going to talk about the F given to As I Lay Dying.

- Don

- Nov-01-2005, 15:22


humm i concur. the story was pretty ok, but you kind of have to get used to the way that the stream-of-conciousness works

- lily

- Jan-03-2005, 23:05


In order to understand works that you may read you have to have somewhat of an Education, judging by how much most of you drop the F-Bomb I would say that the possibility of you guys having an education or a little bit of respect is none. Thanks

- Alison

- Nov-17-2004, 00:47


i rate this piece of work a F-...I fell asleep the first time trying to read it and I find it very difficult to sit down and read. I suggest to all you students out there not to read this story because you will never be able to read again!

- Brian

- Sep-10-2003, 21:03


dis suck it was nothin yo it was so borin i fell asleep readin tha title yo hah i gave it an F+

- Rosa

- Jul-07-2003, 22:31


I read the bear short story and i found it to be very good i gave it a A-

- Arelis Rosario

- Jul-07-2003, 22:30


i don't know why u gave the bear a B+> I read only the short story and still almost felt asllep during the first paragraph. but well i guess that's your pesonal opinion and even so I question it I'll respect it. but I agree with u on the theme of the story and that the bear symbolizes wilderness. but u have to admitt that the dog symbolizes truth and u really should write that in your critic. thanks a lot tyll sombody with no name

- doesn't matter

- Apr-30-2003, 13:31