Brian returns to his campsite and surveys the damage. He begins rebuilding by starting a new fire, which comforts him and chases away the mosquitos. Although he has to move slowly because of the pain in his ribs, Brian soon succeeds in rebuilding a version of the wall of his shelter and even builds himself a bed out of pine branches. Brian again feels lucky to be alive, and that he was not injured more severely.
Here, Brian takes quick action to improve his situation, relying easily on the world around him to provide resources even when he himself is in pain. This shows a dramatic change from the isolating, self-pitying thought patterns that held him back earlier in the story. Similarly, Brian relies on the word “luck” even though he has lost so much, again showing how positive use of the right language can be a powerful tool for survival.
Lying by his fire, Brian plans to find food the next day and contemplates the sight of the plane’s tail sticking out of the water. Beginning to fall asleep, he suddenly realizes that the survival pack must still be inside the plane and imagines all of the “wonderful things” that must be in the pack. He falls into a “healing sleep” imagining exploring the plane the next day.
With the idea of the survival pack, Paulsen highlights how helpful the tornado might ultimately be for Brian, again showing the unexpected ways that seemingly negative occurrences can lead to positive results.
In the morning, Brian’s ribs feel much better, and he is happy to discover that the tail of the plane did not sink during the night. Although he is eager to begin exploring, he remembers what he has learned previously and knows that he has to eat before doing anything else. Brian sharpens a new fish spear and successfully catches several fish. After cooking and eating them, Brian decides that though still hungry, he is now strong enough to attempt exploring the plane.
Brian’s thoughtful planning and commitment to living by the rules he has established for himself shows just how much he has learned from living in the wilderness. Where he was once rash and careless, Brian is now methodical and closely attuned to his own needs, at last knowing himself as well as he has come to know the world around him. Through this sense of connection, Brian is now thriving rather than simply surviving.
Brian decides that the best way to explore the plane will be to build a floating raft to use as a solid base while investigating. He struggles at first to keep the logs for the raft together but, remembering that he is no longer the easily frustrated person he once was, he sits and contemplates the problem quietly. Then, Brian realizes that choosing logs with limbs attached will allow him to weave the limbs together and hold the logs side by side. Finally, late in the afternoon Brian finishes the roughly made raft and finds that it floats well in the lake.
Again, Brian demonstrates his new ability to confront problems calmly and approach adverse situations as lessons to be learned. As before, a close examination of natural resources yields an elegant solution, highlighting Brian’s place within the balance of nature.
Realizing that he will need a way to attach the raft to the plane, Brian tears his old windbreaker into strips to make a rope, then sets off pushing the raft through the water. He discovers that moving the raft is much harder than he expected and, although he is eager to continue, he decides to rest for the night and continue his project in the morning.
The difficulty of moving the raft reiterates how challenging Brian’s situation still is, even though he has learned so much about how to thrive in the wilderness. This new obstacle hints at the reality that life never quite becomes easy, and that patient, sustained effort is the best path toward success.
Watching the sun set that evening, Brian imagines what his mother and father are doing at that moment. He pictures his mother watching television and cooking, and then forces himself to pay attention to the sunset instead. Looking at all the details of the light, trees, and water, Brian finds the beauty “almost unbelievable” and wonders if, someday, he will be at home watching television and imagining the sunset. As night falls, he feels a slight chill in the air.
For the first time in several chapters, Brian actively compares his life in the wilderness to his life back home in the city. Though he still misses his parents, he begins to acknowledge how crucial the natural world has become to him. Although he does not know he will soon be rescued, he seems to anticipate the lasting changes that he will bring with him when he returns home.
The next morning, the air is even colder. Bringing the hatchet with him, Brian goes out to his raft and slowly swims it over to the tail of plane, a process that takes more than two hours. Brian is exhausted when he arrives and wishes that he had taken the time to eat breakfast. Examining the tail close up, he finds a place to tie the raft and searches for an opening that he can use to get inside the plane. He sees that all of the openings are underwater and is unsure how to proceed. He thinks of the pilot’s body still sitting in the cockpit, but feels unable to give up his chance at the survival pack.
Brian’s ability to revisit the plane with a sense of purpose and calm shows how far he has come in accepting the tragedy, although his forgetting to eat breakfast also demonstrates that his success in the wilderness is still somewhat fragile despite all his growth. Additionally, the chill in the air raises the prospect of a new challenge from nature, in the form of the coming winter.