Three of the most important events from the book are the crashing of the plane, the finding of food, and the finding of the survival pack.
The plane crash is pretty obvious, but it is important because nothing else in the book could have happened without it. Brian is on his way to see his father because his parents have recently divorced after his mother’s affair. His father is in Canada. Brian takes a small plane, and it is just him and the pilot. The plane crashes in the wilderness when the pilot has a heart attack.
But between the seventeenth and eighteenth radio transmissions, without a warning, the engine coughed, roared violently for a second and died. There was sudden silence, cut only by the sound of the wind milling propeller and the wind past the cockpit. (Ch. 2)
Once the plane crashes, Brian is on his own. He has no way of calling for help and no one knows where he is. He must find his own sources of food and shelter. At first, he finds some berries. He eventually calls them gut cherries because they make him so sick. Brian eventually figures out how to use a bow and arrow to fish.
With his bow, with an arrow fashioned by his own hands he had done food, had found a way to live. The bow had given him this way and he exulted in it, in the bow, in the arrow, in the fish, in the hatchet, in the sky. (Ch. 13)
Brian is able to eat better once he can fish, and not live off of berries. It is not enough, though. He wants the survival kit. The survival kit is in the plane, which is half in the lake. Getting it is a feat. Once he does, it is like winning the lottery.
Unbelievable riches. He could not believe the contents of the survival pack.
The night before he was so numb with exhaustion he couldn't do anything but sleep. . . . But with false gray dawn he had awakened, instantly, and began to dig in the pack—to find amazing, wonderful things. (Ch. 19)
Once he finds the survival pack, the tide turns for Brian. It has many handy survival tools, of course, including food, a gun, and cooking pans. What it also has is an emergency radio that sends out a signal. Until then, no one was even looking for Brian anymore. They had given up.