Bear
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"Bear" Characters Analysis

By Marian Engel

fiction | 167 pages | Published in NaN

After five years buried like a mole amid the decaying maps and manuscripts of an historical institute, Lou is given a welcome field assignment: to catalogue a nineteenth-century library, improbably located in an octagonal house on a remote island in northern Ontario. Eager to reconstruct the estate's curious history, she is unprepared for her discovery that the island has one other inhabitant: a bear.

ISBN_13:9780770415518

Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

NameRole
LouProtagonist
BearSymbolic Character
Colonel Jocelyn CaryAntagonist
Dr. James HarrisSupporting Character

Role Identification

In the book "Bear" by Marian Engel, the main character, Lou, embarks on a journey of self-discovery through her interactions with a bear. The bear serves as a symbolic character that represents both the wildness and inner desires within Lou. Colonel Jocelyn Cary serves as the antagonist, while Dr. James Harris provides support and guidance to Lou.

Character Descriptions

Lou

Lou is a middle-aged librarian who is initially described as reserved and repressed. She is a dedicated professional who is deeply committed to her work. Lou is portrayed as a lonely individual, disconnected from her emotions and trapped in a monotonous routine. She is described as having mousy brown hair, glasses, and a plain appearance that matches her unremarkable lifestyle.

Bear

Bear is a powerful and majestic creature that Lou encounters on a remote island. Physically, the bear is described as massive, with thick fur and sharp claws. Despite its intimidating presence, the bear is also portrayed as gentle and affectionate, displaying a surprising level of intelligence and understanding. Bear becomes a source of comfort and companionship for Lou, allowing her to explore her hidden desires and break free from societal constraints.

Colonel Jocelyn Cary

Colonel Jocelyn Cary is a wealthy landowner who represents the oppressive forces of society. He is depicted as a domineering and controlling figure, using his power and influence to assert authority over others. Colonel Cary serves as an obstacle to Lou's journey of self-discovery, attempting to impose his own ideas and values onto her.

Dr. James Harris

Dr. James Harris is a supportive character who plays a crucial role in Lou's transformation. He is a trusted friend and confidant, offering guidance and understanding as Lou navigates her complex emotions. Dr. Harris provides a safe space for Lou to explore her desires and offers a different perspective on societal norms, encouraging her to embrace her true self.

Character Traits

Lou

  • Reserved
  • Repressed
  • Dedicated
  • Lonely
  • Inquisitive
  • Curious

Bear

  • Powerful
  • Majestic
  • Gentle
  • Affectionate
  • Intelligent
  • Symbolic

Colonel Jocelyn Cary

  • Domineering
  • Controlling
  • Authoritative
  • Wealthy
  • Oppressive

Dr. James Harris

  • Supportive
  • Trustworthy
  • Understanding
  • Compassionate
  • Open-minded

Character Background

Lou

Lou's background is not extensively explored in the book. However, it is implied that she has lived a rather mundane and uneventful life, focused primarily on her work as a librarian. She is portrayed as someone who has suppressed her desires and emotions for a long time, leading to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction.

Bear

As a symbolic character, Bear does not have a defined background. However, the bear's presence on the remote island suggests a connection to nature and the wild. The bear's isolation from human society emphasizes its untamed and primal nature.

Colonel Jocelyn Cary

Colonel Jocelyn Cary is portrayed as a wealthy and powerful landowner. His background suggests a privileged upbringing and a position of influence within society. He represents the traditional values and societal expectations that Lou is seeking to break free from.

Dr. James Harris

Dr. James Harris is a respected professional who is well-regarded within the community. His background as a psychologist and friend to Lou suggests a deep understanding of human nature and the complexities of emotions. Dr. Harris provides a supportive and non-judgmental space for Lou to explore her desires.

Character Arcs

Lou

Lou undergoes a profound character arc throughout the book. Initially reserved and repressed, she gradually embraces her inner desires and explores her sexuality. Through her interactions with Bear, Lou experiences a sense of liberation and discovers a newfound sense of self. Her journey of self-discovery ultimately leads to personal growth and a breaking free from societal constraints.

Bear

As a symbolic character, Bear does not undergo a character arc in the traditional sense. However, Bear serves as a catalyst for Lou's transformation and acts as a mirror for her hidden desires. Bear's presence challenges Lou to confront her own fears and inhibitions, ultimately leading to her personal liberation.

Colonel Jocelyn Cary

Colonel Jocelyn Cary serves as a consistent antagonist throughout the book. His role is to obstruct Lou's journey of self-discovery and maintain the status quo. Despite his attempts to control and influence Lou, he ultimately fails to suppress her inner desires and transformation.

Dr. James Harris

Dr. James Harris provides a steady and supportive presence in Lou's life. His role is to guide and encourage Lou as she navigates her complex emotions and desires. Dr. Harris acts as a catalyst for Lou's self-reflection and provides the necessary support for her personal growth.

Relationships

Lou and Bear

The relationship between Lou and Bear is complex and multifaceted. Initially, Lou is hesitant and fearful of the bear's presence. However, as they spend more time together, a bond forms between them. Bear becomes a source of comfort and companionship for Lou, allowing her to explore her hidden desires and break free from societal constraints. The relationship between Lou and Bear is symbolic of the connection between human nature and the untamed wilderness.

Lou and Colonel Jocelyn Cary

The relationship between Lou and Colonel Jocelyn Cary is characterized by power dynamics and conflict. Colonel Cary attempts to control and manipulate Lou, imposing his own values and desires onto her. Lou resists his authority and ultimately rejects his attempts to stifle her personal growth and self-discovery.

Lou and Dr. James Harris

The relationship between Lou and Dr. James Harris is one of trust and support. Dr. Harris provides a safe space for Lou to explore her desires and emotions without judgment. He acts as a guide and confidant, offering insights and encouragement throughout her journey of self-discovery.

In conclusion, "Bear" by Marian Engel presents a compelling character analysis of Lou, the bear, Colonel Jocelyn Cary, and Dr. James Harris. Lou's transformation and self-discovery, facilitated by her relationship with the bear, challenge societal norms and expectations. The book explores themes of liberation, desire, and the power of embracing one's true self.