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CHAPTER NOTES / ANALYSIS FOR HATCHET
Brian turns his back on the planeís wreckage and begins to repair the damage to his home. He first gets the fire going again. He finds some of the woven wall still intact and adds to it to re-create his shelter. He finds enough downed pine boughs to make a new bed and decides in his pain and exhaustion that heíll find more food the next day. As he sits in front of his new fire, nearly asleep, a picture comes into his head of the planeís tail sticking out of the water, and he remembers the survival pack inside. He knows it has food, knives, and matches as well as a sleeping bag. It might even have fishing gear. He thinks to himself that he would be so rich if he could just get to it, and he decides all that will be a part of tomorrow.
In the morning, Brian is impatient to get into the plane, but reminds himself that he needs food first. There are fish to be caught, and there might not be anything in the plane. So, he makes a new spear and easily catches three fish. He makes a new fish board to cook them on, and they give him the strength he will need to search the plane.
He has decided that he will need to make a raft and push-paddle it to the planeís tail. Then, he will have to tie it there while he finds a way to get inside. He has a hard time building the raft, because even though he has the right-sized logs, heís unsure how to hold them together. Soon, he realizes that if he finds logs with limbs sticking out, he can weave them together as he had done with his wall and the fish gate. By late afternoon, Brushpile I, as he calls it, is done. He realizes that he canít stand on it, but will have to swim alongside it. He uses his tattered windbreaker as a rope to tie it to the plane.
It proves to be much harder than he thought to
get the raft to the plane, and he knows he wonít get the raft to the plane before
dark. So Brian makes himself be patient and watches the sun set in the west. It
brings him thoughts of his father who he knows is toward the west, and then he
turns to the south where his mother is. He wonders what they are doing at that
exact moment, and then turns himself again to the sunset. He wonders, should he
ever get out of this predicament, if he will ever be sitting in his living room
and think of this very sunset. He falls asleep with this thought in his head.
The next day, Brian begins his journey to the planeís tail. It takes him over two hours to push and pull the raft to the planeís tail. He finds a gap on the elevator hinges and ties it there. Somehow he has to get inside the plane, but he can find no openings, and heís afraid to try coming up from the front of the plane, which is still under water, in case he gets trapped. So he finds himself blocked.
Once again, Brian must work out a problem which must be solved as part of his survival. He makes himself be patient and get his strength back before he attempts to get to the plane. He also takes time to thinks of those he may be missing him at home and to appreciate the beauty of the sunset. Both of these are signs of his new maturity. He works out the mechanics of the raft and how to tie it to the plane, but now he must figure out how to get inside the tail. The lack of openings blocks his creative juices at least for the moment. However, the reader senses that just like all the other problems Brian solved, this one will be resolved in some fashion.
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 planeís 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 canít believe that he has done it. He canít survive without the hatchet. It has been the tool that has helped him build everything. But he also knows that self-pity doesnít 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 heíll 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 heíll 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 pilotís neck. Brianís 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 isnít 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 Brianís 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 pilotís fish eaten skull to do it. It is a moment of great pride and the ultimate example of the new, more mature Brian.