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Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Chapter 7 | Summary



Brian wakes up screaming for his mother. He's in incredible pain: he's never felt anything this intense. He throws up and has violent diarrhea that continues for an hour, until he is weak and exhausted. When he crawls back to the shelter, he again thinks about the time when he saw his mother at the mall kissing a man he didn't recognize. Brian never told his father what he saw, and he believes his father "still did not know about it." Brian eventually falls asleep and wakes after the sun is up, cleaning the mess from his sickness as best he can. He goes down to the lake to get a drink and sees his swollen, bloody, and dirty face reflected in the water. Feeling sorry for himself, he sits down and cries. Then he drinks more water, has a few berries, and resumes his search for food. He realizes that he has been in the wilderness for three days and finds himself calling his shelter "home."

Nearby, Brian discovers some raspberry bushes. He eats some of the berries, but does not gorge himself this time. He picks more and puts them in his jacket for later. As he turns to go, he is terrified to see a bear and doesn't know how to respond. Fortunately, the bear eats some raspberries and leaves. Brian runs back to the shelter, where he can think calmly. He decides the bear only wanted berries, since it could have caught him if it wanted to. Brian returns cautiously to the raspberry bushes, where he picks more berries, then returns to the shelter just as it starts to rain. Happy to be dry inside, he eats more berries, drinks their juice, and thoroughly enjoys them. Eventually, he goes to sleep.


Brian is used to turning to his parents in times of trouble. Now his mother literally is not there to help, and in remembering "the Secret" he realizes he had lost her support even before his plane crashed. By juxtaposing this memory with Brian's sickness, Paulsen suggests "the Secret" makes Brian as sick as the berries he ate. He must find a way to rid himself of it, as he does the berries.

The character's frightening encounter with the bear further develops the interrelated themes of nature and survival. Brian's expectation that the bear will try to harm him does not match the reality of the wilderness. The bear is just trying to survive, as he is. Its behavior is "something to understand," he thinks, "not something to run away from." Brian is learning that fear and flight aren't always the best response. Nor is the wilderness always an enemy—although it's certainly not a friend either.

Brian is also learning to consider an experience from another perspective, even an animal's, an important skill for wilderness survival. As the chapter traces his arc from pain, illness, and fear to his contentment with the most basic food and shelter, readers begin to feel he might indeed be able to survive.

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