Markoosie's Harpoon of the Hunter is the coming-of-age story turned survival narrative of Kamik, a young Inuk whose community is attacked by a rabid polar bear. This paper engages with the existing scholarship on the text to show that it has favoured a symbolic interpretation of polar bears and other characters. Though the polar bear surfaces as a potentially symbolic element, I argue that the sequence of multiple bear attacks becomes increasingly literal, stripping away the symbolic resonance and revealing a polar bear character. By layering over the polar bear symbol with a relationship between Kamik and polar bears, Harpoon of the Hunter invites readers to shift from symbolic to literal relationship models. I apply this model to a reading of the final scene, Kamik's suicide, to argue that the text undermines excessive symbolism and demands that material relationships be acknowledged and maintained.
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