Brian learns that the pilot who rescued him was a fur buyer attracted by the emergency transmitter that Brian had assumed was broken and unknowingly left on. Brian had been alone for 54 days when he was rescued. He had lost a large percentage of his body weight, and his mind changed even more significantly. Brian feels that he is much more observant and thoughtful than he was before his ordeal. He also marvels constantly at how easy it is to get a variety of food back in the civilized world.
The continued changes that Brian perceives in himself after returning home show just how profoundly time in nature can increase a person’s ability to approach life with care and sensitivity. Brian’s changed body also suggests that his experiences have stripped away anything unnecessary, hinting at Paulsen’s argument that urban life is full of unhelpful distractions.
Curious about the plants and animals he encountered in the wilderness, such as the gut cherries and foolbirds, Brian researches them to find out their real names and more about them. He also continues to dream of the lake and the woods for a long time after he is rescued but the dreams are “never bad.” The government sends a team to recover the pilot’s body, and reporters photograph the campsite. Seeing those pictures often jogs Brian’s memory and triggers the dreams. Brian is interviewed several times about his experience, but eventually the public interest in his story dies down. Had Brian not been rescued when he was, it would have been difficult for him to survive the coming winter.
Brian’s dreams of the lake and the woods demonstrate that despite all the hardships he faced, the effects of his time in the wilderness are overwhelmingly linked with peace and positivity. His instinct to learn the correct words for the plants and animals he encountered touches again on the idea of the power of definitions, and it seems that Brian may gain an even deeper understanding of what he experienced by learning, in retrospect, to name it.
While Brian’s mother and father are overjoyed to find him alive, they do not get back together, and Brian’s life quickly returns to normal. He goes on living in the city with his mother, who still sees the man in the station wagon, and Brian eventually visits his father in Canada. Although he is tempted to do so, Brian does not tell his father about the Secret.
The lack of emotion surrounding Brian’s parents’ divorce marks a profound shift from the start of the book. What was once devastating to Brian is now a simple fact, and his life continues normally where normalcy had once seemed impossible. It seems that Brian’s growth during his adventure gives him the maturity and fortitude to face even this significant challenge with calm.