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Hatchet | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

When Brian wakes up the next morning, he digs through the survival pack and finds "unbelievable riches." It contains matches, a sleeping bag, a set of cooking pots, a knife with a compass, a first-aid kit, and a fishing kit. It seems better than any birthday he's ever had. One item seems strange at first, until he figures out that it is a "survival rifle." It is stored in parts, and he has to figure out how to put them together. Having the rifle changes everything about his relationship to the wilderness. He can kill more easily and doesn't have to watch his surroundings as closely. The gun detaches him from the environment, as do other objects in the pack, such as the butane lighters. Brian has a mixed reaction to these discoveries, and isn't "sure he like[s] the change."

Brian builds up his fire and continues to look through the survival pack. He finds something electronic but at first doesn't know what it is. Eventually he finds two words printed on it: "emergency transmitter." He tries turning it on, but there's no response, and he assumes that it broke when the plane crashed. He goes on to find soap and a large amount of freeze-dried food. Everything seems like a luxury. Just being able to carry water from the lake in a pot seems like wealth. He's enjoying some of the food from the survival pack and thinking about his mother's cooking when he hears a droning noise. It approaches quickly, and he sees the noise is made by a "bush plane." It lands on the lake, approaching so quickly that Brian is still sitting there eating and drinking when the pilot arrives. The pilot says he heard the signal from the emergency transmitter, which was working after all. At first Brian is too stunned to speak, but then he offers the man something to eat.

Analysis

Several elements of this final chapter make it work especially well as a conclusion to Brian's time in the wilderness. The rifle is key to demonstrating Brian's new maturity. Brian approaches it methodically, mastering a mechanical challenge that would likely have defeated him at the start of the novel. Furthermore, he sees how it will change his relationship to nature. It will help him survive, but it will distance him from his new awareness of his surroundings. Pure survival is not the only goal that matters to Brian, who now cares about how he lives and what it means.

Finally, the way Brian greets the pilot demonstrates his complete autonomy. The pilot is so excited over hearing Brian's signal and then recognizing Brian that he is almost babbling. He's the wilderness professional, but he's the one knocked off-balance by the encounter. In contrast, Brian stays calm and acts as a host to the pilot, politely offering him food. This shows how completely Brian has matured. He is at home here; the lake belongs to him. He is so successful in his ability to find food that he's willing to share his recent find from the survival pack with his visitor.

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