Hatchet

by

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Brian unpacks the survival pack and marvels at the “unbelievable riches” it contains. He finds sleeping materials, cooking supplies, matches and lighters, and even a sharp knife. He continues to go through what he thinks of as “the presents” and discovers a fishing kit as well as a survival rifle.
The riches of the survival pack make it clear that Brian’s extensive efforts to retrieve it were well worthwhile, highlighting the relationship between a methodical approach to challenges and the rewards that can result. Furthermore, Brian’s choice to think of the supplies as “presents” shows again how effectively he has harnessed his use of words to frame his circumstances in the most positive way possible.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Brian assembles the rifle and immediately notices how strange it makes him feel. He realizes that the power it gives him means that he doesn’t have to understand the wilderness, since he can hunt and survive without knowing anything about the plants and animals around him. Brian sets the rifle aside, disliking the change, and then tries making a fire with one of the lighters. The fire catches easily, which again gives him the sense of being removed from connection with his surroundings. Brian reflects that although it is full of treasures, the pack gives him “up and down feelings.”
Brian’s apprehension upon discovering the rifle and the lighter provides a new perspective on the theme of the importance of connection. Even though the rifle makes Brian more powerful as an individual, it takes away his necessary connection to the natural world, which makes him feel weaker and more ignorant. At this point, Brian accepts the knowledge that full independence is not as powerful as a balanced, interconnected relationship with the rest of the world.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Returning to the pack, Brian finds an electronic device with a long antenna and a switch. He flicks the switch and when nothing happens, he assumes it is broken and sets it aside. He moves on to the other items in the pack, finding soap and scissors and imagining how good it will feel to bathe in the lake.
Brian’s focus on how to use the items he finds, rather than on how he might escape the wilderness, shows how comfortably integrated into nature he has become. While he is happy to have human objects like soap and scissors, he thinks of them in terms of how we will use them in the natural setting where he now feels at home.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
Finally, Brian looks through the packets of freeze-dried food in the survival kit. There are dozens of packets, with so much variety that Brian feels he could continue living in the wilderness as long as necessary. He decides that he will ration carefully but first wants to make a feast, so he chooses enough packets for an enormous meal and starts cooking them over the fire. While the food cooks, Brian tastes a sweet drink packet and enjoys the smells of the food, thinking of his mother’s kitchen at home.
The abundance that Brian finds in the food packets makes it clear that he no longer has any need to be rescued in order to survive. At this point, Brian is able to live fully in the wilderness, having overcome despair in the face of a variety of setbacks. He also refers to the food as a “feast,” demonstrating his commitment to viewing what he has with joy and excitement rather than dwelling on what he lacks.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
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Suddenly, Brian hears an unfamiliar noise, and moments later, a bush plane with floats lands on the lake right in front of him. Brian cannot at first comprehend what he is seeing as he watches the plane’s pilot appear from the cockpit. Disbelieving, the man asks if Brian is the missing kid who vanished two months ago. Brian feels for a moment that he cannot speak, but then he recovers, tells the man his name, and offers him something to eat from the feast he is cooking.
Brian’s ability to offer the man food underscores how well he has learned to thrive in the wilderness. Unlike the earlier rescue plane, this one arrives when Brian has fully integrated the lessons of the wilderness into his life, hinting that this growth was in some way necessary for his eventual rescue. It is also significant that Brian’s first words to the man are his own name, again linking the idea of self-definition to the idea of salvation.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon