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Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Epilogue | Summary



Readers learn the bush plane's pilot had come to map the region for future fur trading with trappers. Brian has now been at the lake for 54 days. He has lost 17 percent of his weight and has almost no body fat left. He eventually gains back 6 percent of his body weight. The narrator relates how Brian's time in the wilderness changes Brian in other ways, many of them permanent. Brian has become much more observant and much more thoughtful, often thinking before he speaks. He continues to learn, asking more questions and doing research to answer them. He researches the plants and animals he has eaten during his time in the wilderness. Back in civilization, Brian remains amazed by the availability of food years after his rescue. Sometimes he goes to the grocery store and just stares at all the food there.

The media focuses on Brian for a while, and several television channels interview him. One writer talks to him about writing a book about his experience, but nothing comes of it. When Brian looks at the pictures and films of his interviews, he dreams about his time in the wilderness. He dreams of the lake and the sound of the birds. He sits alone and thinks about all he went through: "it was not bad, and would never be bad for him." However, the narrator speculates that if Brian had not been rescued, fall and winter would have been hard for him. He would have lost access to the fish and food would have become scarcer.

Brian's parents are so happy to see him again that Brian thinks they might get back together. But after a week, things return to the way they had been. Brian's father goes back to the oilfields. Brian mother stays in the city, where she is still involved with the man she kissed in the mall parking lot. Brian tries to tell his father about "the Secret" but never does so.


In this final section of the novel, Paulsen pulls back for a wider narrative focus, following Brian from a greater distance. This allows him to summarize Brian's experience and its effects on him and to place them in a larger context. For example, Paulsen flatly states many of the changes to Brian's character have been permanent.

The epilogue also touches gently on the issue of Brian's parents' divorce and his response to it. The "new" Brian, who is tougher and more self-reliant and thoughtful is not the same boy who bitterly recalled his mother's infidelity and wept on the plane. Paralleling his survival in the woods is Brian's survival of the divorce. He has learned to face down despair, anger, and fear and can accept the reality of his parents' split. He also keeps the "Secret" to himself, perhaps because he realizes it won't help his father or change the situation.

The epilogue spoke strongly to the novel's readers—so many readers seized upon the brief discussion of what Brian's experience would have been like in the winter that they wrote Paulsen letters asking about it. This led to a sequel, Brian's Winter. In that novel, Paulsen depicts what would have happened if the emergency transmitter hadn't worked. In this alternative narrative, Brian is not rescued and has to live through the long, cold winter alone.

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