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Download or Stream Bear by Marian Engel: A Story of a Woman and a Bear

Bear by Marian Engel: A Controversial Classic of Canadian Literature


Bear is a novel by Canadian author Marian Engel, published in 1976. It tells the story of a lonely librarian who develops a sexual relationship with a bear while staying at a remote island cottage. The novel won the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction, the most prestigious literary prize in Canada, but also sparked controversy and criticism for its explicit depiction of bestiality.

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What is Bear about?

Bear is a short novel that follows the life of Lou, a 27-year-old librarian who works at a historical institute in Toronto. She is unhappy with her job, her love life, and her lack of personal fulfillment. She accepts an assignment to catalog the library of Colonel Cary, a deceased eccentric who owned a large estate on a remote island in northern Ontario. There, she discovers that the only other inhabitant of the island is a large black bear, who lives in a shed near the cottage where she stays. She gradually develops a bond with the bear, who becomes her companion, protector, and lover.

Why is Bear controversial?

Bear is controversial because it portrays a sexual relationship between a human and an animal, which is considered taboo and immoral by many people. The novel does not shy away from describing the physical and emotional aspects of Lou's intimacy with the bear, which some readers find shocking, disgusting, or offensive. The novel also challenges the conventional notions of gender roles, sexuality, and morality, which some critics view as radical, feminist, or subversive.

How did Bear become a classic?

Bear became a classic because it is a well-written and original work of literature that explores universal themes such as loneliness, alienation, identity, and freedom. The novel also showcases Engel's skillful use of language, symbolism, imagery, and humor. The novel has been praised by many critics and writers for its courage, creativity, and honesty. The novel has also been adapted into a film, a play, and an opera.

Main Body

The plot of Bear

The protagonist and her background

Lou is the protagonist of Bear. She is a librarian who works at the Historical Institute of Canada in Toronto. She has a PhD in Canadian literature but feels unappreciated and bored by her job. She has no friends or family, except for her elderly mother who lives in a nursing home. She has had several unsuccessful relationships with men who treated her poorly or cheated on her. She suffers from low self-esteem and depression.

The setting and the discovery of the bear

Lou travels to Cary's Island, a remote island in northern Ontario that belongs to Colonel Cary's estate. She stays at a cottage that was built by Cary's grandfather in the 19th century. The cottage is filled with books, paintings, artifacts, and memorabilia that reflect Cary's eclectic interests and personality. Lou finds a note from Cary that instructs her to take care of his pet bear, who lives in a shed near the cottage. Lou is surprised and curious about the bear, who she initially fears but later befriends.

The relationship between Lou and the bear

Lou and the bear develop a close relationship that evolves from friendship to affection to sexual attraction. Lou feeds the bear, brushes his fur, plays with him, and talks to him. The bear responds to her with gentleness, intelligence, and loyalty. He protects her from a group of intruders who try to rob the cottage. He also satisfies her sexual needs and desires, which she had repressed for a long time. Lou feels a connection with the bear that she has never felt with any human being.

The climax and the resolution

The climax of the novel occurs when Lou decides to free the bear from his chain and let him roam the island. She hopes that he will return to her, but he does not. She realizes that he has gone back to his natural habitat and his own kind. She feels a mixture of sadness, anger, and relief. She decides to leave the island and return to Toronto. She burns all the papers and books that she had cataloged, as a symbolic gesture of liberation and rebellion. She also writes a letter to her boss, resigning from her job and telling him to "go fuck a duck". She leaves the island with a new sense of self-worth and independence.

The themes of Bear

Nature and civilization

One of the main themes of Bear is the contrast between nature and civilization. Lou escapes from the urban, modern, and artificial world of Toronto, where she feels oppressed, alienated, and unhappy. She finds solace and freedom in the rural, ancient, and natural world of Cary's Island, where she feels alive, connected, and happy. The bear represents the wild, primal, and authentic aspect of nature, while the cottage represents the civilized, cultured, and artificial aspect of human society. Lou tries to balance both aspects in her life, but ultimately chooses nature over civilization.

Feminism and sexuality

Another theme of Bear is feminism and sexuality. Lou challenges the patriarchal, sexist, and heteronormative norms that have shaped her life and identity. She rejects the traditional roles of wife, mother, daughter, and employee that have been imposed on her by men. She embraces her own sexuality, which is unconventional, unconventional, and transgressive. She experiments with different forms of pleasure, including masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, and bestiality. She asserts her agency, autonomy, and power over her own body and destiny.

Identity and transformation

A third theme of Bear is identity and transformation. Lou undergoes a radical change in her self-image and self-esteem throughout the novel. She starts as a timid, insecure, and unhappy woman who hates herself and her life. She ends as a confident, assertive, and happy woman who loves herself and her life. She discovers new aspects of herself that she had suppressed or ignored before. She also identifies with the bear, who becomes a mirror and a catalyst for her transformation. She adopts some of his traits, such as his strength, courage, and freedom.


Summary of the main points

Bear is a novel by Marian Engel that tells the story of a librarian who has a sexual relationship with a bear on a remote island. The novel explores themes such as nature and civilization, feminism and sexuality, identity and transformation. The novel won the Governor General's Award for English-language fiction in 1976 but also caused controversy and criticism for its explicit depiction of bestiality.

Evaluation of the book

Bear is a remarkable book that deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates literature. It is a well-written book that uses language in a creative and effective way. It is an original book that offers a unique perspective on human-animal relations. It is a courageous book that dares to challenge the status quo and provoke debate.

Recommendations for readers

Bear is suitable for readers who are interested in Canadian literature, feminist literature, or animal literature. It is also suitable for readers who are open-minded, curious, and adventurous. It is not suitable for readers who are easily offended, shocked, or disgusted by graphic sexual content or bestiality.

--- FAQs

  • Is Bear based on a true story?

No, Bear is not based on a true story. It is a work of fiction that was inspired by Engel's imagination.

  • What kind of bear is in Bear?

The bear in Bear is a black bear (Ursus americanus), which is the most common species of bear in North America.

  • What is the significance of the title Bear?

  • What is the genre of Bear?

Bear is a novel that belongs to the genre of literary fiction. It can also be classified as a bildungsroman, a novel that depicts the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist.

  • What are some other books similar to Bear?

Some other books similar to Bear are The Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus.

Thank you for reading my article on Bear by Marian Engel. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. Have a great day! 71b2f0854b


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