The following is in response to The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke in 2002, based on real events in the life of American frontiersman Hugh Glass in 1823.
The Revenant is a historical car driven by author Michael Punke through the story of a man whose thirst for revenge—deserved and not misplaced—leads him to rise from the dead. Hugh Glass, one of a band of frontiersmen working for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, is attacked by a bear and nearly killed. Fitzgerald and another member of the company were supposed to stay behind to either aide Glass’s recovery or bury him when he dies. In his cowardice and greed, Fitzgerald waited a few days, robbed Glass of his belongings, and left him to die. Though glass is badly wounded in his back and throat, he is aware of everything Fitzgerald has done.
Ironically, the bear that nearly took his life, also saved him; okay, it might not have been the exact same bear, but the irony still stands. Left to die and barely able to breathe nonetheless move, Glass is almost discovered by a group of Native Americans that would surely have killed him. Before finding the defenseless white man in the woods, a bear is seen in the distance and the Native Americans decide to leave the area.
From Revenant To Revenge
Punke does a lot of great things with his writing to show us Glass’s relationship with revenge and how it drives him. After miraculously gaining enough strength to begin crawling towards civilization, he happens upon a rattlesnake. I saw this venomous serpent as a representation of all the dangers of the frontier; when Glass kills the snake and eats it, this not only shows us the true grit that Glass possesses but that he means to overcome everything in his path. There is a wonderful image where he keeps the rattler from the snake so that he won’t forget what he had to do. Of course this comes right after his back story is fully realized as if to say he will draw on his past to move forward. We see this as earlier as page 85 when he uses his knowledge of plants that he gained from the Pawnee Indians to stay alive. Leslie Knope would be proud.
Snakes aren’t the only things that stand in Glass’s way. Starving, Glass eats the bones of a dead buffalo that he finds on the plains. He immediately gets sick from eating the rancid marrow and nearly dies. Glass is even sprayed blind from a skunk at one point. Revenge gives him the drive to survive. Illustrating this revenge-drive, is the juxtaposition of Glass and a giant of a man named pig. Pig dies from a small stab wound but Glass survived a bear attack. What does a man have to possess to survive the way Hugh could and pig couldn’t? Punke is showing us want it means to harbor revenge. In many stories, revenge is a force that destroys characters (like in one of my favorite books, Carrie), but for Hugh Glass revenge is more of a saving grace. It’s this unlikely dichotomy that made The Revenant one of my favorite reads in 2018.