In Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, what do you think would have happened if Brian had found the survival pack much earlier? Would he be the same person? What are the most important lessons Brian learns...

In Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, what do you think would have happened if Brian had found the survival pack much earlier? Would he be the same person? What are the most important lessons Brian learns about the natural wood? How does his time in the wilderness affect his attitude toward the land and the animals? What would have happened to Brian if the crash was in winter? And what does "the secret" refer to?

Expert Answers
litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If Brian had found the survival pack earlier, he would not have been as dependent on the hatchet and he would have probably been less stressed in general.  Brian is very focused on the survival pack.  It motivates him throughout the time he is trapped alone in the wild.

“Treasure. Unbelievable riches. He could not believe the contents of the survival pack.” (Ch. 19)

Brian finds a sleeping bag, a gun, cookware, matches, soap, freeze-dried food, and even a hat in the survival pack.  It also has a first-aid kit and fishing gear.  Most important of all, he finds an emergency transmitter.  Between that and the matches he is sure he will be found.

Brian learns to be self-sufficient and not to give up during his time in the woods.  He struggles with depression and frustration at times, but he continues to be innovative and determined.  He makes a spear and climbs into the plane to get the survival pack.  Brian learns that he can accomplish anything he sets out to do.

Brian comes to understand and respect the land and animals much more.  He pays attention to where the animals go so he knows where to find food.  He has a healthy fear of the dangerous ones, and determines which ones he can eat.  Through observation and trial and error, Brian become a real wilderness expert.

The incident with the bear and the berries is a good example of Brian’s overcoming his fear and coming to a better understanding of the ways of the wild.  He realizes that where there is food he is attracted to, animals will be as well.  However, he just has to be smart about interacting with them.

If the bear had wanted you, his brain said, he would have taken you. It is something to understand, he thought, not something to run away from. The bear was eating berries.

Not people. (Ch. 7)

If Brian had crashed in the winter, survival would have been much more difficult.  For one thing, dying of exposure or hypothermia would have been more of a danger than mosquitoes.  Brian was lucky that the weather mostly cooperated with him.

The secret Brian refers to is his mother’s affair.  Brian knows about it, because he saw her kissing a man with blond hair. It is the reason his parents are divorcing.  Brian is not sure how to tell his mother that he knows, so his goodbye is very awkward.