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Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Chapter 2 | Summary



Brian considers giving the pilot CPR but doesn't know how and suspects the pilot is dead. When the plane begins to swerve, he knows that he must act. He takes the controls and tries to guide the plane as the pilot showed him earlier. While he can straighten the flight path, he can't read the instrument panel, except the radio. Reluctantly he takes the radio headset from the pilot's head and in doing so accidentally bumps the controls, causing the plane to dive.

After Brian regains control of the plane, he attempts to talk on the radio, but there is no answer. Eventually he remembers that to use this type of radio, he has to turn the mike off. When he does this, Brian hears a faint response. He asks for help and explains his situation, but whoever is on the other end of the radio can barely hear him. He manages to tell them the plane has no pilot before the transmission breaks up. Brian listens for more than half an hour with no answer. He tries calling for help on the radio over and over again, every 10 minutes for three hours. As he waits between calls, he thinks of how he might land the plane himself, taking factors like geography and speed into consideration. Then the engines die.


As is common in adventure fiction, the novel quickly places its main character in a dangerous, action-packed, and suspenseful situation. A 13-year-old boy with no experience as a pilot is trapped on a plane with nobody to help. He has left the world of adults behind. Readers wonder: how will he function? What if the plane crashes? How will he survive?

The story will continue present life or death challenges for Brian throughout, and each will test his character. Brian's response to the catastrophe on the plane conveys important information to readers by showing how his mind works in a crisis. He tries to apply what he's been taught in the past to see what will help him in the present. In each case, he must adapt those teachings to his particular situation. By remembering what the pilot has told him, Brian guides the plane and saves his own life.

This chapter also demonstrates the kind of applied patience Brian will use to survive in the Canadian wilderness. If he can't find the answer he needs right away, he will try multiple approaches, testing to see what works or does not, always maintaining an awareness of his situation. Even before he crashes in the wilderness, Brian has the potential to grow and become self-reliant.

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