Brian works his way around the tail again and again, but there is simply no way in. In his frustration, he slams his fist against the body of the plane and is surprised to see that the aluminum covering easily gives way to his blow. He realizes that the hatchet would once again be the tool that makes the difference by allowing him to break through the plane's skin.

The hatchet works, but just as Brian is bending a piece of aluminum away from the braces holding it, he drops the hatchet in the lake. He is devastated and can't believe that he has done it. He can't survive without the hatchet. It has been the tool that has helped him build everything. But he also knows that self-pity doesn't work, and he must find a way to get the hatchet back. The lake is deep, and he tries several times, never having quite enough air to make it. Finally, after pulling in as much air as his chest can hold, he dives again. Just he thinks he'll have to surface, defeated one more time, he sees the handle sticking out of the mud. He grabs the rubber grip and, in one motion, shoots himself off the bottom and heads for the surface. He hangs for a moment on the side of the raft, drawing in new air. Once his strength returns, Brian turns once again to the plane.

He finally chops a hole big enough to allow his head and shoulders to pass through. However, it is too dark to see anything, and he knows he'll need to make the hole bigger so he can poke around inside. He chops more and more away, saving every piece, believing now that he might be able to use them somehow in the future. In the wilderness, he can never take anything for granted, and so he can never throw anything away. Finally, he creates a hole big enough to allow him to wriggle inside. Again, he holds his breath and swims through the wreckage. He feels something made of nylon and believes it must be the bag. He surfaces, takes in more air, and tries again. He grabs the survival bag and tugs until it pulls loose. At that moment, he sees the pilot, still strapped into his seat in the front of the plane. The fish had been nibbling at his head all this time, and all that remained was a not quite clean skull wobbling loosely on the pilot's neck. Brian's mind screams in horror, and he could have ended up there with the pilot, because he takes in water, but his instincts kick in again. Brian swims for the surface through all the cables and broken parts of the tail and finally ends up hanging on a bracket at the back. But then peace comes to him, and he settles his breathing. He has the bag. He just has to get it out of the plane, onto the raft, and back to shore.

By the time Brian finally gets the bag out of the plane and onto the raft, it is nearly dark. He is bone tired and he still has to get the raft to shore. Many times, as he pushes and pulls, he thinks he isn't going to make it, and by the time he comes to shore, he is exhausted and unable to stand. Eventually, however, he drags the bag back to his shelter. Once again, he has done it!


This is perhaps Brian's greatest feat - finding the survival bag and bringing it back to his shelter. He has used his intelligence and his logic. He has been patient and waited until he had the strength to do it. And he has survived even the horror of the pilot's fish eaten skull to do it. It is a moment of great pride and the ultimate example of the new, more mature Brian.

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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Free BookNotes Summary

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