The Revenant An exploration of people’s survival in
the natural world—and revenge by Springwater Hester-Meawassige
THE REVENANT IS A movie that tells the tale of Hugh Glass,
a father, frontiersman, and relentless survivor. The movie is
based on Michal Punke’s 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel
In 1820s America, Hugh Glass and his Indigenous teen son,
Hawk, lead a fur-trapping, pelt-gathering expedition. The
expedition is attacked by a group of Arikara, who kill the
majority of the men. Glass strives to lead the men to safety
by charting a new route to a U.S. fort.
While Glass is looking for food he is attacked by a bear
and nearly killed. He is left in the care of two members of
the expedition, John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger, while Hawk
attempts to nurse his father back to health. Fitzgerald kills
Hawk while an immobilized Glass looks on.
Glass is buried alive in a shallow grave by Fitzgerald but
later manages to dig himself out. Alone, exhausted, injured,
and without food, he travels through freezing temperatures
and mountains to find the man that killed his son.
Note: The Revenant is rated R and contains graphics violence. Use judgment in viewing this movie.
Ask each person to share what stood out for them in the
• Many of the characters are historical figures; does this
affect your movie experience? Would the movie have had
the same effect on you if it were fiction?
• From early on, we can see that much of the movie is
about people and the natural world. What part of the
movie best depicts people’s need to survive the elements?
• After providing everyone with the opportunity to discuss
this question, have them consider that The Revenant
demonstrates that the human being is the wildest of all
animals. What are some of the scenes that depict the wild
nature of people?
• The natural world is always present in this picture. Many
of the nature scenes look like they are filmed in areas
that have never been touched by humans, yet we are
constantly aware of the many dangers that exist for Glass.
What parts of the movie demonstrate how vulnerable
humans are when forced to survive in the natural world?
• The movie is loaded with symbolism. Have each person
discuss what they think is the significance of one of the
following: the bird; mountain of buffalo skulls; underwater faces; Glass’s wife; or the poetic narrative.
• What role did you see these visions taking?
• Is there a particular character in the movie that reminds
you of someone in the Bible?
• Discuss the meaning of the word “revenant.”
• What motivates a man who was left for dead to embark
on a six-week long crawl in the winter? What are some
of the first indicators that Glass is seeking revenge on
the man that killed his son? Or is Glass in pursuit of
justice that he knows would otherwise not happen for his
• Discuss the differences between revenge and justice.
Knowing that the killing of Indigenous people was accepted
and normalized during this time, consider the following:
• If Glass had not sought out Fitzgerald, what would have
been the likelihood of justice being served for the death
of Hawk, an Indigenous boy in 1824?
• What would you do for vengeance, and what conditions
could you conquer to get it?
• The Revenant is a graphic movie that contains a lot of
violence. Have everyone discuss what challenged them
the most about the movie. Take a few moments to consider how we might always be aware of the differences
between justice and revenge.
• How can we avoid the temptation to seek revenge while
Have everyone sit in a circle. Choose a song to sing or a psalm
to recite. Ask everyone to offer a few words that describe
their time together.
Springwater Hester-Meawassige is the Youth Leadership
Coordinator with the United Church’s Aboriginal Ministries