Pushing the Bear” by Diane Glancy



 The book “Pushing the Bear” by award winning poet and writer Diane Glancy was published in the year 1996. The book is about a group of Native Americans known as the Cherokee who were forcefully evacuated from their home. There were around thirteen thousand Cherokees who were evacuated and the events occurred around the years eighteen thirty-eight and eighteen thirty-nine. The story is narrated by a variety of characters created by Glancy. The Cherokee Indians were forcefully evacuated from the Trail of Tears towards the new territory which is present day Oklahoma. The book narrates the difficult time that the natives had during the evacuation.

The book uses metaphors to describe the culture of the Cherokee and how they lived with each other. The term bear in the book symbolizes greed and individualism that people build up during the evacuation period. It comes from a Cherokee mythology. This symbolism vividly explains why among the Cherokee culture, individualism is not allowed, but the good of the society is what they fight to achieve. The loss of land and their homes meant that men could not be described as men because they lost their value to provide by farming. In the Cherokee culture the man is the provider and the protector, but during the evacuation the soldiers made it difficult for men to do this to their wives and children. The men felt weak, bitter and inept. The Cherokee are native Americans who had their own spiritual beliefs, but when the missionary came and introduced Christianity to them, the Cherokee retained their beliefs but questioned the beliefs they had. This made them convert gradually to Christianity because they could not turn to their beliefs for protection.

The best thing about the book is how they renounce their lives the comfort they heard when they were in their lands. Their tribal life seemed easy since they had togetherness and supported each other. It was easy to build a family and support it as land was available and people could farm to get corn for their families.


In the Cherokee tribe men and women had different roles in the society.  The role of men among the Cherokee is to provide and protect their families. The men were supposed to farm for corn, but after the evacuation they could not do this because they lacked the land to farm. They faced soldiers’ constant threat because they raped their women and subjected the family to harsh conditions. The women were described as property owners, which determined which women were married. The women owned land that the men farmed to provide for their families. They were also the ones who take care of the domestic needs of the family and ensured the well being of each family member. The book clearly defines the purpose men and women culturally had.

The book also uses land to describe how the Cherokee lived in their tribal lands. The land was used to unite the community and give a role to each gender. The difficulty that the men had in trying to provide for their families because of lack of land describes how culturally land is important to the Cherokee people. It can be used to define the role of each person in the community and give them a sense of belonging. Therefore, the book can be used to accurately describe the cultural roles that each gender had in the tribe while they were living in their tribal land.

            The book is historically correct and accurate documented instances to narrate the story of the Cherokee. The book therefore gives a glimpse of what the native Americans went through during the tough period and how they responded to the pressure that was exerted to them. The book also accurately describes the change that occurred in their culture during the rime of the evacuation how they changed beliefs and how gender roles changed. The book can therefore act as a documented history article for the Cherokee people during the time when they were being evacuated and the horrors that they went through.

While reading the book peoples become conversant not only with the tribal ways of life of the Cherokee people but also their beliefs on selflessness, gratitude and friendship. This is clearly portrayed by how the way of life of the people changed. Before their evacuation they lived as a tribe in unity and had togetherness but during the evacuation the tribe disintegrated as they become greedy and people tried to live by their own self-interest. Even families disintegrated and broke up causing a lot of confusion within the tribe. Reading the book makes one understand the purpose of living in a society that works together to achieve a goal and how being greedy and selfish can cause a society to breakdown.

The book also tries to give a detailed part of the U.S. History that was cruel and sad. The characters in the book are devastated by the soldier’s evacuation and are not able to deal with a new way of life. With this a reader can understand the past events and how they cause communities to turn on each other.

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