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Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Chapter 3 | Summary



Despite his fear of dying, Brian takes the controls and tries to guide the plane down. After a while, he sees an L-shaped lake up ahead and guides the plane to it, reasoning that landing in water may make his landing easier. The plane hits trees as he's descending and crashes into the lake. Water destroys the front windshield and the side windows and blasts him back in his seat. Screaming in pain and fear, he pulls his seatbelt off and scrambles out the broken front window. He swims upward and surfaces, trying not to swallow water, until he reaches the shore. Then he passes out.


This chapter blends believable heroic action—as Brian takes the controls, starts guiding the plane, and makes it out of the plane alive—with equally realistic failure. Brian fails to land the plane safely, and when he crashes, he is overwhelmed and almost drowns. Finally, the chapter ends with a classic cliffhanger: the hero passed out alone in the wilderness. These details make Brian's story credible, suspenseful, and frightening.

This chapter is also thematically and symbolically important. When Brian takes the controls of the plane, he is trying to take control of his life. His crash, unconsciousness, and eventual recovery are a symbolic form of death and rebirth. After he survives what could have been a watery grave and manages to get to shore, he is reborn into a new situation that will test his mettle. The transformation is painful and traumatic, as his screams of pain and fear demonstrate. Like a snake shedding its skin, Brian will repeatedly have to leave behind parts of his former identity in order to survive.

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