At first, Brian canít bring himself to leave the fire out of fear that it will go out, but he soon realizes that he will need a large wood pile to get through the night. So, he banks his fire with new wood and leaves the shelter to search for wood. He finds three large white pines lying across each other after being blown over by the same storm that left him a clearing to land the plane. They would provide enough wood for many days. He also discovers as he cuts the limbs into smaller logs that the mosquitoes donít bother him when heís near the smoke, and that is an especially wonderful discovery. He also comes to the conclusion that he has the means to create a signal fire on top of the rock where the smoke escapes from his fire below. So, Brian spends the rest of the afternoon cutting wood and bringing it back to his shelter. For the first time, he thinks he might be getting a handle on things, and that is a comfort that he hasnít felt since the crash.
Brian awakens in the middle of the night to the realization that his
fire is dying. He quickly builds it up again just in time. He settles
to sleep once more when he hears a kind of slithering sound outside the
shelter not unlike the sound the porcupine had made. He isnít as worried
this time, because he knows that his fire will protect him. The next morning,
he finds strange tracks in the sand that consist of a main center line
with claw marks to the side. They lead to a small pile of sand and then
back to the water. Again, using his own sense of logic, Brian realizes
that the claws were made by a turtle and that in the sand pile are the
eggs it had laid in the night. Now, he has a new source of food. Heís
not sure at first how to eat them, because even though he has a fire,
he has no utensils to cook them. So, he just begins to suck out the inside.
At first, the taste nearly makes him vomit them up, but soon, he gets
used to the idea and eats six this way. Even though heís still hungry,
he fights it and decides to store them and eat them just one a day. Then,
it occurs to him that he had momentarily forgotten that the searchers
might come before too long, and he is frightened that he had forgotten.
He had to keep hoping.
This chapter emphasizes the accomplishments Brian has made, but it also
emphasizes that he is beginning to - at least, subconsciously - accept
that he might be here in the woods for a very long time. That thought
is frightening, because it indicates that he may be beginning to give
up hope of ever being found, and hope is the most important emotion to
Brianís day now consists of all the work he must do. He has to rebury the eggs near his shelter, add wood to the fire, and clean up the camp area. This helps keep his depression at bay, the depression about not being found that he had suppressed. He decides to always have enough wood for three days, and that is a staggering amount of work. As he is gathering it all, he notices, too, that his body is changing. He has lost all the baby fat that hung around his middle, and his stomach has caved in from his hunger. His sunburn is turning to tan, and the smoke from his fire has made his face look leathery. But the greatest change concerns who he is becoming. First, he hears differently, knowing what a sound is even before he realizes he has heard it. He truly sees things as well - all parts of the object rather than just its whole. These two things - his body and his mind - have made a connection that he doesnít quite understand yet, but which he knows has occurred.
This day, Brian also decides to prepare his signal fire, so if he hears
an engine, he can run up with a burning limb and set it off. When he climbs
up the ledge, he sees the lake for the first time from above as he had
seen it just before the crash. It brings a moment of fear, but this is
soon followed by the sense of the incredible beauty that lies below him.
At this moment, he also sees the fish jumping in the water below, and
he recognizes another source of food. The birds are diving and grabbing
up the smaller fish, and Brian is dumbfounded that he never thought to
look inside the water for food. It is literally packed with life - fish,
clams, and even tiny crayfish. When he stands in the water a few minutes
later, the fish dart away, but they soon come back as if curious about
him. Brian knows that he can use this curiosity against them and catch
them for food by perhaps making a small spear. Now tomorrow will bring
him even more work to keep himself safe.
At this point in Brianís new existence, he comes to some new conclusions about his life - he has changed, and he values different things now. His survival instincts have kicked in, and he recognizes the value of work. His body has changed from being outdoors and working to find food and build a shelter and a fire. However, itís his thinking process that has changed the most. Self-pity is gone and determination has taken its place. He is fast becoming a man and his time in the wilderness will be invaluable because of the change it has created in him. The reader hopes at this point and all through the book that Brian will be found, but there is a sense that even if he is there for a long time, he will be alright, just because he is growing up.
Cite this page:
Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Hatchet".
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