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Hatchet | Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

Time runs together for Brian. One day is like the next, and only the marks he makes on his shelter wall record the passing time. There are, however, key events that stand out in the "mental journal" he keeps. The "day of First Meat" is one of these defining moments. Brian had started to crave meat and decides he needs to hunt what he calls a "foolbird," which he later learns is a grouse. However, when he tries to get close enough to kill one, he scares the birds away. He analyzes the situation and realizes he's been looking for the wrong things when he tries to track birds, watching for feathers and colors when he needed to concentrate on the bird's outline. Once he shifts his perspective, he can suddenly see birds everywhere and finally spears one. Cleaning it presents challenges: tolerating the smell of its organs, struggling to find an effective way to cook the bird over the fire. But he learns as he goes along and successfully cleans, cooks, and eats the bird.

Analysis

Brian has already recreated the physical trappings of civilization by this point in the novel. Like the earliest humans, he found shelter, then improved on it. He created tools, improved on them, and used them to get food. Now he is, in effect, writing his own history. He keeps his own record of his time in the wilderness, scratching off days on the wall of his shelter. He also keeps a "mental journal" of important events, such as the "day of First Meat" during what he dubs the "new time" in Chapter 14. He even goes so far as to give some of the animals he sees new names, like the "foolbird." This parallels the Biblical creation story of Adam and Eve, who name the animals as God creates them, and is another major sign of Brian's growing autonomy. He is creating his own civilization.

By shifting his visual perception of the foolbirds, Brian literally learns to see the world differently, and his reward is a rich new source of food. His success underscores the importance of adapting to match your environment. After he adjusts his perception of the birds he can adjust the way he hunts them, increasing his chance of success.

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