Hatchet

by

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Brian wakes up and is extremely thirsty. He also realizes that he has been badly sunburned while he slept. Although he is unsure whether it’s safe to drink the lake water, he is unable to resist and drinks deeply from the lake. Back on the bank, he feels sick but somewhat restored, able to think more clearly than before. Brian says aloud, “So here I am.” At that point, he feels his mind begin to work “for the first time since the crash.”
Though he is unsure about doing so, Brian begins to learn to rely on the natural world when he drinks the lake water. This moment is also a crucial turning point in Brian’s use of the power of language; speaking aloud enables him to take further action to survive, showing how language can actually create reality rather than just describe it.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
All of Brian’s thoughts come rushing in at once, so he forces himself to think through the facts of his situation slowly, one by one. He does not know where he is, only that he was flying over the northern Canadian woods when the plane crashed. Brian comforts himself with the thought that his mother and father will do everything possible to find him, and that a search crew could even arrive within a day or two. Brian wonders whether he’ll go to his mother’s home or his father’s, and realizes that he no longer cares what the answer is.
Here, the use of clear language again allows Brian to find a measure of calm as he faces a difficult situation. His realization that he does not care whether he goes home to his mother or his father also shows that Brian is beginning to escape from his despair over the divorce now that he has to deal with more pressing adversity.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Thinking of home, Brian realizes how hungry he is and wonders how he will find food. At first, he thinks that he has nothing, and then stops and thinks that he actually doesn’t know what he has. Brian remembers an English teacher named Perpich who used to talk about staying positive and getting motivated, and he thinks that Perpich would tell him to look at everything to determine his assets.
Brian at first assumes that he has nothing, showing how pessimistic he still tends to be. However, he quickly challenges that assumption by remembering Perpich’s instructions to stay positive, demonstrating that he is beginning to gain some ability to see the potential for growth within difficulty. Again, the power of language comes into play here as Brian remembers words like “think positive” and “get motivated.”
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Brian empties his pockets and finds only some change, a twenty-dollar bill, and a nail clipper. Then, he remembers the hatchet on his belt and adds that to his assets. He also inventories his clothes, shoes, and torn windbreaker. Finally, Brian realizes that Perpich would say that Brian himself is his most valuable asset. Brian wishes that Perpich were with him and yells aloud how hungry he is. In response to his voice, everything in the woods around him falls silent, making Brian realize that he has never before experienced true silence.
Finding the hatchet provides Brian with a link to an idea of his own value and ability to act independently even within a strange new environment. His decision to value himself hints at the growing independence that he will find in the wilderness. When Brian yells out into the wild, he uses words to discover his power to shape the natural world, in this case by making it go silent.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
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Preoccupied with thoughts of hamburgers, Brian tries to ignore a nagging realization about his time in the plane. Slowly, he remembers that the pilot had knocked the plane off course and is forced to admit to himself that the searchers might not be able to find him right away. Still, he tells himself that they will arrive in a matter of days. He decides that he can live in the woods for three or four days. Resolute, Brian touches the hatchet and, thinking of Perpich, motivates himself to find food and shelter.
This moment marks an early example of Brian’s choosing action over despair. He accepts the troubling knowledge that the plane was off course, but he does not let this knowledge crush him as it might have in the past. Armed with his decision to value himself and his independence, Brian again remembers the power of Perpich’s inspirational words and adopts an attitude that will support his immediate survival.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon