Hatchet

by

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Brian thinks back on a time when he and his friend Terry pretended to be lost in the woods, making fire and hunting with a gun. Brian wishes that Terry were with him and, inspired by the memory, decides to try to build a lean-to for shelter. He walks around the stone ridge he saw earlier and discovers an overhang in the rock that forms almost a cave. Brian thinks that finding this shelter is his first good luck, but then decides that surviving the landing was actually lucky as well.
Although Brian misses Terry and the security of home, he allows the memory to inspire him rather than drag him into despair, again showing a new skill at drawing strength from something that might seem negative. Brian’s new interpretation of the concept of luck is also a key change for him, as he uses the definition of “good luck” to frame his situation in a more positive light.
Themes
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Brian sits in the shade of his new shelter and wonders how to find food, feeling too weak to improve the shelter until he has eaten. He reflects on how easy it has always been for him to have food, remembering the delicious meals that his mother and father used to cook before their divorce. Brian thinks back on survival shows he has seen on television and decides that there must be berry bushes nearby. He almost starts thinking about his mother’s affair again but decides that he must “stop that kind of thinking,” resolving instead to find berries before dark.
Thinking back on the ease of his old life, Brian’s experience again underscores the sheltered, unnatural reality of urban living. Here, he also takes another step toward the independence that he needs to survive, consciously separating himself from the idea of his mother so that he will not be distracted from finding food.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Trying to keep his thoughts focused on the task at hand, Brian walks slowly along the edge of the lake. He sees a flock of birds land in the undergrowth and follows them, discovering that they are eating berries that look almost like grapes. Overjoyed, Brian eats the berries but discovers that they are oddly tart, with large pits like cherries. Still, he continues eating them until he is completely full and then carries more back to his shelter in a pouch made from his windbreaker.
Even in his newly independent mindset, Brian ends up relying on birds, one of the most prevalent parts of his new environment, to lead him to the berries. Paulsen shows that even at this early stage, independence must balance with connection to the rest of the world. The crucial role of natural resources is also underscored here, as Brian gains new strength from the berries.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Back at his camp by the ridge, Brian tries and fails to make fire by rubbing sticks together. Giving up, he decides to try to close in part of the overhang to make a better shelter. Using interlaced dead branches, he spends the afternoon covering the front of the overhang to make a wall and doorway. As the sun goes down, Brian begins to feel sick to his stomach and is again attacked by mosquitos. Although he is very tired, he struggles to fall asleep until night falls completely.
This scene illustrates the limits of Brian’s sense of independence and the way that the order of the natural world continues to impose itself on him. Despite his commitment to providing for himself, Brian cannot make fire easily, and the insects still torment him even though he has begun to understand the assets of the world around him.
Themes
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
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