Essay Preview: Hatchet
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In the middle of the night a noise awakens Brian and he senses something in his shelter. He throws his hatchet across the shelter and an acute pain spreads through his entire leg. A porcupine has attacked him with hundreds of painful quills. After pulling all the quills out one by one, Brian cries in misery and loses his will to survive. When he can cry no more, it dawns on him that crying and self-pity accomplish nothing. He considers this realization the most important lesson he learns about survival. Dozing off once more, Brian has a dream in which his father and his friend Terry appear. Mouthing inaudible words, his father strives to tell Brian something important, cannot convey the message. He then disappears and Terry takes his place. While barbecuing in the park, he lights a charcoal fire and looks at Brian. Brian cannot make sense of these dreams nor understand their purpose. In the morning, while Brian stretches, the sun hits the hatchet and it shines like fire. Only then does Brian make the connection between his dreams and reality; Terry and his father were trying to explain to Brian how to make a fire. Striking the hatchet against a stone and watching the sparks fly, Brian determines that he will find a way to use the hatchet to make fire.
Producing fire from sparks presents a much greater challenge than Brian had anticipated, requiring him to make several modifications before he succeeds. He finds some birch bark to ignite the sparks, but needs a finer and more effective type of material. The fire is still dying after many efforts, and Brian becomes frustrated but perseveres. He thinks back to his science classes, and Brian remembers that fire also needs oxygen to thrive. He blows on it, and, after adjusting the strength of his blows, the sparks burst into a flame. Feeding the fire with more kindling and reveling in his accomplishment, he considers the fire a friend as well as a guard against animals and mosquitoes. All alone in the wilderness, he cries out in joy at his fire, longing to share it with someone. Brian wonders what his parents are doing at that moment, and if his mother was seeing the strange man he had seen her kiss.
Brians dream in Chapter 7 indicates that although he has traveled far from his mother and has been away for some time, his parents divorce remains a forceful element in his life, with which he has yet to come to terms. When he wonders what his parents are doing in the end of Chapter 9, the reader is aware that although the focus had shifted towards an emphasis on Brians life in the woods, the past still emerges in his thoughts.
Although Brian has been living outdoors for some time, only in this part of the book does he start to truly communicate with nature and to identify with the creatures of the natural world. After he spots the bear in the berry patch and realizes he his harmlessness, he thinks to himself, “The bear made no move to hurt you, to threaten you. It stood to see you better, study you, then went on its way eating berries. It was a big bear, but it did not want you,