Gary Paulsen

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Hatchet makes teaching easy.

Hatchet: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Brian continues to think back on the mistakes that he made in the earlier days of his time in the woods, noting in particular how quickly any small error can seriously threaten his survival. One of his most significant mistakes is throwing sand at a skunk that he finds digging up his turtle eggs on the beach. Brian finds the skunk unthreatening and even cute, but it immediately sprays him in the face, temporarily blinding him, and eats all of the turtle eggs. From that experience, Brian learns that food needs to be protected above all else, and that tiny actions can have lasting repercussions.
Brian’s reflections on his errors again underscore the importance of careful definitions, as when he thinks of the skunk as “cute” and is nearly incapacitated as a result of that error in judgment. This incident, however, is one of many in which a seemingly negative encounter with nature leads to important wisdom, in this case the total primacy of food, that Brian will rely on to continue surviving.
The Natural World Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Brian also thinks back on time spent rebuilding his shelter and planning out ways to keep food on hand in case he is ever unable to find more. Brian figures out a system for storing food on a rock shelf above his shelter, complete with a ladder made of a fallen tree. Additionally, he creates a small enclosure out of rocks in the lake and lures fish inside with food scraps, closing them in with a woven gate.
Armed with his increasing understanding of the lessons of the natural world, Brian’s immediate action to preserve his food supply demonstrates how well he has learned to find the lessons in negative experiences. Rather than dwelling on despair as he once did, Brian now moves quickly to take concrete positive steps.
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Reflecting on all the progress and mistakes he has made along the way, Brian thinks that his goals now are not just about surviving, but about planning ahead to build a sustainable life in the wilderness.
Brian’s understanding that he is no longer trying to simply survive is a key turning point in his understanding of his role within the natural world. His focus on independence begins to fade here as he sees himself as a component of a larger system in which he may someday thrive.
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon