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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen-Free Online Study Guide/Notes/Book Summary
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS

Chapter Sixteen

Summary

After this, Brian has many First Days. There is the First Arrow Day in which he made an arrow that has added feathers to fly more accurately. There is First Rabbit Day when he kills one of the large rabbits and thinks to himself that he is like the predators of the wilderness - he is always hungry, but he can get food. It makes him more than what he was before. He can even catch one of the little birds in his bare hands, because he has perfected his technique.

That is also the day when he is nearly killed. After he kills the bird and skins it, he puts his weapon down and starts to wash the blood off his hands. Later, he doesn’t know what makes him run, but he does just a brown wall of fur detaches itself from the forest behind him. He just has time to see that it’s a moose - a female who, fortunately for Brian, has no horns - which then violently drives him into the water. Every time, Brian rises to the surface, she is on him again and soon, he knows he is hurt, that his ribs may be broken and he can only think, “Insane, just insane.” Eventually, Brian stays hunched over, playing dead, until he is able to slowly pull himself out of the water to shore while the moose eats contentedly behind him. He finds the weapons he lost and, incredibly, even the bird he had killed. Now he is grateful for all the precautions he had taken to have three days supply of wood and the fish pond he has created in the lake. Mostly, he is grateful he is alive, because his ribs make it difficult for him to breathe, and his shoulder is wrenched somehow. He finally falls asleep, exhausted, in his shelter.

Later that night, Brian is awakened by a low, roaring sound from the wind. The mystery sound turns out to be a tornado, and it is too late for Brian to do anything. It is the same insanity as the moose. He is whipped against the front wall of the shelter like a rag doll, ripping a new pain into his already damaged ribs. Then, he is hammered into the sand while the wind picks up everything in his shelter and the shelter as well and throws it all into the lake. He holds onto the rock wall, praying that he survives this newest danger of the wilderness. Eventually, the wind moves into the lake, and Brian realizes he’s back to nothing, just the same as he was after the crash. All he has left is the hatchet on his belt. He thinks, “A flip of some giant coin and I am the loser.”


Soon, Brian comes to remember, however, that he is different now. He may have been hit, but he’s not down, because he knows how to rebuild what he has lost and he still has the hatchet which is all he had in the first place. Before he falls asleep, he thinks that there is something else new - a cold snap - driving the mosquitoes back into the grass. His last thought is that he hopes the tornado hit the moose.

In the morning, Brian leaves the overhanging ledge to see if he can salvage anything from the storm. He finds his bow, broken but with the precious string still intact. He looks down the shoreline for anything else when he suddenly sees it - the tail of the plane. The tornado had somehow, when crossing the lake, changed the position of the plane and raised the tail. It makes him think again of the pilot, and he now feels a massive sadness and wants to say something appropriate even though he doesn’t know the right religious words. He ends up just saying, “Have rest. Have rest forever.”

Notes

In this chapter, Brian is hit with two major dangers and survives - the moose and the tornado. This is reinforcement for the fact that life in the wilderness can change at any moment, and even though he has matured and learned, he is not exempt from the whims of nature. The difference, however, is a big one: he knows now how to rebuild. He also has changed in that he finally has a realization of the sadness of the pilot’s death and forgets himself for a moment to pray for the man who had died on the plane.

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