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Analysis The Bear , Momaday Essay, Research Paper

N. Scott Momaday s poem, “The Bear,” takes place in the wilderness at midday. The day is calm and sunny. The bear is quietly walking through the forest, not hurriedly or destructively. He blends in with his environment. The bear is very old. He has many scars, and a misshapen limb as a result of an old trap injury. It still causes him pain. Then he moves out of sight as buzzards fly overhead.

This poem s pattern is logical. It is as if Momaday is standing in the wilderness when he sees a bear some distance away. The bear is obscure at first. He blends in with his surroundings. As he walks on without notice of Momaday, he moves in and out of sight, yet always seems to be there. As the bear moves closer, Momaday gets a better

view, noticing more of the bear s details. The bear moves on and is out of sight. Then, Momaday notices buzzards flying overhead.

The message that Momaday is trying to convey is that although this bear has fought many battles and seems to be defeated, he is still surviving. He is old, scarred, and in pain, but is still courageous, noble, and one with nature.

To help convey this message, Momaday uses imagery. His use of imagery is very effective in helping the reader visualize the scarred, aged, and crippled bear. To do this he uses the denotations of the words,” . . . old, . . . scarred, . . .crooked, . . . ,” in describing the physical appearance of the bear. The reader pictures a bear that has lived a

relatively long time. He has a coat with marks left from old wounds that have healed, and he has a limb that has bends or angles that are not natural.

Also, Momaday uses the connotation of the phrase, ” . . .outworn valor . . .,” to convey the bear s bravery in countless battles.

Furthermore, Momaday uses the word ” . . .dimensionless. . .,”(7), and the phrase, ” . . .seems forever there. . .,”(10), to convey the idea that the bear is one with nature and the bear s spirit is throughout the wilderness.

As for the description of the wilderness, Momaday s use of imagery paints a picture of the setting in the reader s mind. The reader can picture the ” wall of leaves,” and feel the sun s heat around midday.

To further the reader s experience, Momaday utilizes alliteration. The soft s sound is most prevalent. It is the sound of footsteps in the forest. It sounds like it is the dead leaves and other debris on the forest floor being crushed under foot. This poem definitely appeals to the senses.

After reading this poem, an allegory is revealed. Momaday s underlying story is that of the Kiowa people. The bear represents the Kiowa people. Many years ago they were as the bear, free and at one with nature. They were a proud and courageous people that fought many battles as did the bear. They were seen but went about their daily life. They moved yet were still a part of their environment. They had been through much more difficult times than other cultures. They, too,were caught in a trap that maimed them as a people. They were surrounded by the white culture which suppressed their language, religion, and beliefs. Today, since the white culture diminished their numbers

and attacked their culture, it is as if the truly pure Kiowa is gone from sight and the white culture circles waiting to envelope them at a weak moment. The bear is a symbol of power, strength, and nobility, all that the Kiowa believe themselves to be. Their culture may have been scarred and maimed, but they are still all of those things. They are as the bear, courageous survivors.


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