Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Chapter 11 | Summary



Feeling depressed because there is no sign of rescuers, Brian cleans up his camp to get some control over his situation. About midday he looks at himself in the lake. His reflection shows how much his body has changed since he arrived—he's much leaner. This makes him think about other changes he is experiencing. Brian sees and hears more sharply and clearly than before.

Brian works through the day gathering more wood, stopping at a place where he can look down at the lake from up above. He remembers the crash, but he also perceives the lake's beauty. He sees birds fishing and realizes that if birds can catch fish he can, too. At the lake shore he realizes how much life is there: fish, crayfish, clams, and more. He tries to grab fish with his bare hands, but they are too quick. He decides he will have to make a tool, perhaps a spear, to catch them.


Brian experiences periods of both great drama and activity and stillness and reflection. These periods come and go like seasons and are necessary for his continuing growth. Chapter 11 provides one of those opportunities for reflection and synthesis that help Brian move to the next stage of his development. The chapter focuses on Brian's growing sense of awareness of himself and of his environment. He learns survival strategies from the animals around him, like the birds that fish in the lake. His sense of sight and hearing are becoming sharper in the wild because, like the animals, they are key to his ability to hunt and survive.

Chapter 11 also develops the symbolism of the lake. Paulsen continually builds links between Brian's inner self and his outer world, and the lake shows that connection. Before mirrors were common, people looked at their reflection in water. For Brian, a literal perception of his reflection is also a symbolic one. Seeing his reflection in the water leads Brian to think about who he is and how he has changed. The narrator says, "perhaps more than his body was the change in his mind, or in the way he was—becoming." His external and internal worlds are coming closer together, as are his mind and body, which "had made a connection with each other he didn't quite understand."

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