Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Chapter 10 | Summary



At first Brian can't stand to leave his fire. He sits beside it most of the day. Eventually he realizes he needs more wood to keep the fire going. Banking the fire, he gathers and chops large dry branches. In a happy discovery he finds the mosquitos that had bitten him so many times are gone, driven away by the smoke from the fire. He also realizes he can use the fire to signal search parties. He starts to believe he might be able to get more control over his life.

That night he hears something moving across the sand and in the morning sees tracks leading from the lake to a pile of sand and back. As he ponders the tracks, wondering if they might have been made by animals at play, he can readily admit his urban life is of limited help in the middle of the Canadian woods. He calls himself a "city boy" with "city ways." Finally realizing the tracks probably have a more practical purpose, he digs in one of the sandpiles and finds 17 round eggs about the size of ping-pong balls. A turtle has come to shore to lay eggs. While the shells are as hard as leather, Brian manages to open one up and suck the contents down. He nearly vomits but continues eating until he has consumed six eggs, taking the rest to his shelter. Finally Brian realizes he hasn't thought about the possibility of a rescue party in some time. He must keep it in mind, he thinks, so that he doesn't lose hope.


Sometimes Brian's own ingenuity and actions contribute to his successes. At other times plain luck helps him solve problems, like his discovery that the smoke from his fire drives away pesky insects. This is a key aspect of Paulsen's portrayal of survival. Brian doesn't have to become the complete master of his environment, and, in fact, he can't be. Instead, he demonstrates a more complex and realistic attribute of survival. He takes responsibility for what he can, accepts good fortune when it comes, and, when he has to, rolls with the negatives.

Eating raw turtle eggs is another scene Paulsen had to experience in order to write about it in the novel. Unlike Brian, he couldn't keep the eggs down. He rationalized that Brian was able to digest the eggs because his survival depended on it.

Brian wonders if the sandpile is evidence of animals at play, then rejects that idea. In this way, he demonstrates how much he is growing. His capacity for observation and reasoning leads him to a different conclusion: "animals weren't that way."

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