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Major Works Data Sheet

Title: The Bear Author: Faulkner Date of Publication: 1970 Genre: short story Biographical information about the author: William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, in September 1897; he died in Mississippi in 1962. Faulkner achieved a reputation as one of the greatest American novelists of the twentieth century largely based on his series of novels about a fictional region of Mississippi called Yoknapatawpha County, centered on the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi. The greatest of these novels--among them The Sound and the Fury,Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom!--rank among the very finest novels of world literature. Faulkner was especially interested in moral themes relating to the ruins of the Deep South in the post-Civil War era. His prose style--which combines complex, uninterrupted sentences with long strings of adjectives, frequent changes in narration, many recursive asides, and a frequent reliance on a sort of objective stream-of-consciousness technique whereby the inner experience of a character in a scene is contrasted with the outward appearance of the scene--ranks among his greatest achievements. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Characteristics of the genre: A short story is a form of short fictional narrative prose. Short stories tend to be more concise and to the point than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the modern sense of this term) and novels.Short stories have their origins in oral story-telling traditions and the prose anecdote, a swiftly-sketched situation that comes rapidly to its point. With the rise of the comparatively realistic novel, the short story evolved as a miniature, with some of its first perfectly independent examples in the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann and Anton Chekhov. Many authors today release compilations of their short stories in short story collections.

Historical information about the period of publication: Written during the late 1930s, Go Down, Moses is not generally ranked among Faulkner's very greatest works; it is, however, one of his most interesting, particularly from a structural standpoint. Not quite a novel but more than a collection of short stories, Go Down, Moses is comprised of seven separate, complete stories, which interrelate on a number of levels, and which deal with many of the same characters and places, most specifically the McCaslin plantation and the descendents of Carothers McCaslin. The complex mosaic of themes and histories that emerges from this structure remains a vivid and moving statement on the role of man in nature, the idea of property and of patrimony, and the nature of family.

Plot Summary: As Isaac grows older, he becomes an expert hunter and woodsman, and continues going with the hunting parties every year. The group becomes increasingly preoccupied with hunting Old Ben, a monstrous, almost immortal bear that wreaks havoc throughout the forest. Old Ben's foot was maimed in a trap, and he seems impervious to bullets. Isaac learns to track Old Ben, but it is useless to hunt him because all the hounds are afraid of him. Sam Fathers, who teaches Isaac Old Ben's ways, says that it will take an extraordinary dog to bring Old Ben down. Isaac sees Old Ben several times. Once, they send a tiny fyce-dog with no sense of danger after him, and Isaac even has a shot at the huge bear. But instead of taking it, he runs after the fyce and dives to save him from the bear. He looks up at Old Ben looming over him and remembers the image from his dreams about the bear. At last they find the dog capable of bringing Old Ben to bay: Lion, a huge, wild Airedale mix with extraordinary courage and savagery. Sam makes Lion semi-tame by starving him until he will allow himself to be touched; soon, Boon Hogganbeck has devoted himself to Lion and even shares a bed with him. Using Lion, they nearly catch Old Ben, but Boon Hogganbeck misses five point-blank shots. General Compson hits the bear and draws blood, but Old Ben escapes into the forest. Isaac and Boon go into Memphis to buy whisky for the men, and the next day, they go after the bear again. General Compson declares that he wants Isaac to ride Kate, the only mule who is not afraid of wild animals and, therefore, the best chance any of the men have to get close enough to the bear to kill him. In the deep woods, near the river, Lion leaps at Old Ben and takes hold of his throat. Old Ben seizes Lion and begins shredding his stomach with his claws. Boon Hogganbeck draws his knife and throws himself on top of the bear, slitting his throat. Old Ben dies, and a few days later, Lion dies as well. Sam Fathers collapses after the fight and dies not long after Lion. Lion and Sam are buried in the same clearing. Isaac returns to the farm near Jefferson, to the old McCaslin plantation. Time passes; eventually he is 21, and it is time for him to assume control of the plantation, which is his by inheritance. But he renounces it in favor of his cousin McCaslin Edmonds, who is practically his father. Isaac has a long argument with McCaslin in which he declares his belief that the land cannot be owned, that the curse of God's Earth is man's attempt to own the land, and that that curse has led to slavery and the destruction of the South. McCaslin tries to argue with him, but Isaac remembers looking through the old ledger books of Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy and piecing together the story of the plantations slaves, and he refuses the inheritance. (One of Isaac's inferences is particularly appalling: Tomey, the slave who Carothers McCaslin took as a lover and the mother of Turl, may also have been Carothers McCaslin's daughter by another slave, Eunice. Eunice committed suicide shortly before Turl's birth, and from this and other factors, Isaac deducts that she must also have been Carothers McCaslin's lover.) So, Isaac refuses the inheritance, moves to town, and becomes a carpenter, eschewing material possessions. He marries a woman who urges him to take back the plantation, but he refuses even when she tries to convince him sexually. He administers the money left to the children of Tomey's Turl and Tennie, even traveling to Arkansas to give a thousand dollars to Sophonsiba, Lucas's sister, who moved their with a scholarly negro farmer who never seems to farm. He continues to hunt and to spend all the time he can in the woods. Once, he goes back to the hunting camp where they stalked Old Ben for so many years. Major de Spain has sold it to a logging company and the trains come closer and louder than before. Soon, it will be whittled away by the loggers. Isaac goes to the graves of Lion and Sam Fathers, then goes to find Boon Hogganbeck. Boon is in a clearing full of squirrels, trying to fix his gun. As Isaac enters, Boon shouts at him not to touch any of the squirrels: "They're mine!" he cries. Describe the authors style: While "The Bear" is a thirdperson narrative, it is told from the point of view of IkeMcCaslin. Yet not all that Ike knows is told. For example, neither Ike nor the narrator ever actually confirms that Boon killed Sam. McCaslin makes this assumption, and Ike, the only witness, lets his statement remain uncontested. Even more complicated are the conjectures of Ike and McCaslin about Eunice's suicide. It is here that the narrator is demonstrated to be not omniscient (all-knowing), but a more limited, and experimental, version of the traditional third-person narrator. An example that demonstrates the style: still a child, with three years then two years then one years yet before he too could make one of them, each November he would watch the wagon containing the dogs and the bedding and food and guns and is cousin McClaslin and Tennies Jim and Sam Fathers too until Sam moved to the camp to live, depart for the Big Bottom, the big woods. (Faulkner 255)

Memorable Quotes
Quotation Significance

There was an old man and his dog too this time. Two beasts, countering Old Bar, the bear, and the two men, counting Boon Hoggnbeck, whom some of the same blood ran which in Sam Fathers, even though Boons was a plebian strain of it. (Faulkner 253) it was of the wilderness, the big woods, bigger and older than any recorded document;-- of white man fautous enough to believe he had bought any fragment of it, of Indians (Faulkner 255)

This passage sets up the story and introduces the main characters of the story. We see already character motive and actions to expect from these characters. This extended sentence goes on for another 45 lines; this shows Faulkners writing style which distinguishes him from many writers

Characters
Character Isaac Role in the story Carothers McCaslin's grandson, the son of Buck McCaslin and Sophonsiba Beauchamp; born in the late 1860s. He was raised by his second-cousin McCaslin Edmonds. Taught to hunt as a young boy by Sam Fathers The bear of "The Bear." He is finally killed by Boon Hogganbeck after tearing out the entrails of the dog Lion. He Tends to the dog Lion and eventually kills the bear Old Ben with his hunting knife The old Civil War general and Jefferson aristocrat who goes on the hunting expeditions. The great-grandson of Carothers McCaslin, descended from Carothers's daughter. Raised by his Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy Carothers McCaslin's son, Amodeus McCaslin's twin brother, Isaac McCaslin's father. Runs the McCaslin plantation while Amodeus tends the house. The patriarch of the McCaslin family and the founder of the McCaslin plantation. Significance he remains deeply committed to the wilderness and to hunting. At 21, renounces his inheritance and gives the plantation to McCaslin Edmonds. a beast who becomes legendary as an immortal force in the forest. Has one mutilated foot from a bear trap but otherwise seems to be invulnerable. The hunter who is fiercely loyal to Major de Spain and McCaslin Edmonds. Is an allusion as the ancestor of important characters in Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury. He raises Buck's son, Isaac McCaslin. Inherits the plantation at the age of 37, when 21-year-old Isaac refuses to take it as his own inheritance. Theophilus and Amodeus are more usually called "Buck" and "Buddy," respectively. Eventually marries Sophonsiba Beauchamp, Isaac's mother. Most of the important characters are his descendents, through one of three branches: the male branch Isaac, descended from Carothers's son Buck, the female branch the Edmondses, descended from Carothers's daughter and her husband, Edmonds, and the negro branch Tomey's Turl and his descendents, including Lucas Beauchamp, descended from Carothers's affair with his slavegirl Tomey. The slave who becomes Carothers McCaslin's lover; may also be Adjectives Alienated, angry

Old Ben

ferocious, gigantic

Boon Hogganbeck General Compson McCaslin Edmonds

ugly, alcoholic, loyal Strict, demanding

Compassionate, caring, parental

Uncle Buck/ Uncle Buddy

Alcoholic, hardworking

Carothers McCaslin

Tomey

Tomey gives birth to Turl, Carothers's son, not long after her mother commits

Young; naive

suicide by drowning.

Sam Fathers

The son of Ikkemotubbe, the Choctaw chief, and a slave-girl

Setting: Set in Faulkner's fictitious Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, "The Bear" covers different time periods during Ike McCaslm's youth. Although the first section begins while Ike is age sixteen, most of the section covers Ike's first hunting trips during the fall of 1877 and the summer of 1878.

Symbols: "The Bear" is the centerpiece of Go Down, Moses, just as Isaac McCaslin is the book's central character. It is the longest story in the book, and it is Faulkner's most intense, focused, and symbolic exploration of the relationship of man and nature. Old Ben, the legendary bear, is a symbol of the power and inscrutability of nature--he is nearly immortal, nearly invulnerable, capable of overpowering virtually anything, and capable of wreaking havoc on human settlements and establishments. The men, who put their minds to work on the single purpose of hunting him, are in some way representative of man's drive to control nature. (There is some thematic ambiguity in the fact that hunting has been portrayed as a noble and respectful act, but here it becomes, in part, a symbol of man's attempt to conquer nature, to which it has previously been contrasted.) Old Ben is a virtually mythic force, and only over the course of years are the men able to bring him down. But, like the wilderness in Isaac McCaslin's lifetime, he is brought down in the end. Possible Themes: Rites of Passage - The Bear describes several important rites of passage for Ike McCaslin. The first rites of passage that readers encounter are the hunting rituals marking the various stages of his growth as a hunter. His first hunting trip at age ten, killing his first deer at age twelve, and other important landmarks in his hunting experience are described in the narrative. Ike is well acquainted with the normal progression of the hunter's apprenticeship, and is able to anticipate his experiences before they occur: "It seemed to him that at the age of ten he was witnessing his own birth. It was not even strange to him. He had experienced it all before, and not merely in dreams." Ike is prepared to follow the procedures of his apprenticeship: taking the worst hunting stand on his first trip; Sam marking his face and hands with blood after he kills his first deer; and the long evenings of storytelling.

Carothers's daughter if Isaac is right in thinking that Carothers also had an affair with Tomey's mother, Eunice. Ikkemotubbe sold Sam and his Strong, independent, mother into slavery when Sam was parental very young. Now an expert hunter, Sam tames the dog Lion and teaches Isaac the ways of the forest. Significance of the opening scene: The opening lines of the book introduce the reader to several characters. The first character is old Ben, a bear who has become infamous in the forest and has earned himself a human name. Second is a man named Boon who we learn later is the man who kills Old Ben. Next is Sam Fathers, a ma that is a mentor to the narrator. Significance of ending/closing scene: Isaac, whose feelings form the thematic center of the novel, had earlier believed that killing the buck required him to make his life worthy of what he had taken from the animal he hunted; now the spiritual internalization of Old Ben enables him to make his life worthy of the great bear's indomitable will and of his death. In any event, Isaac remains morally committed to nature and to hunting; in his final trip to the camp, he sees a giant rattlesnake that seems to be the same kind of manifestation as the giant buck in "The Old People," and, like Sam Fathers with the buck, he calls it "grandfather." In rejecting the patrimony of Carothers McCaslin, Isaac reaffirms his acceptance of the patrimony of nature. Old AP Questions: 1987 1991 1994

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