Chapter 7 Summary
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 675
Brian awakens to excruciating pain in his stomach; it is as if the berries he ate earlier have “exploded in the center of him,” ripping and tearing. He crawls out of his shelter onto the sand and is sick for over an hour. When he is finally empty and “drained of all strength,” he returns into his shelter but cannot go back to sleep. His mind wanders restlessly, bringing back the memory of his mother sitting in the station wagon with the strange man, kissing him passionately. The kiss has become The Secret, and Brian feels all over again the shame of seeing his mother in this compromising situation. Eventually, he drifts off to sleep again.
When Brian reawakens, the sun is streaming through the doorway and the mosquitoes have returned en masse. He recalls the terrible sickness of the night before, which he knows was caused by eating too many “gut cherries.” Brian goes outside and cleans up the mess he made in the sand then goes down to the lake to wash and get a drink.
The water is so clear that Brian can see his reflection. His face is cut and swollen from the crash and the mosquito bites, and the wound on his forehead has healed but is crusted with dried blood. Consumed with self-pity, he sits on the bank and cries “long...wasted tears.”
When he is all cried out, Brian realizes that his hunger has returned. He decides to try the gut cherries again, but this time he chooses only those that are ripe and eats them in moderation. In reality, they are “awful berries,” but they are food; after consuming a small portion, he sorts through his supply, putting some aside to eat again that night if he has to.
It is a beautiful day, and Brian decides to spend some time looking for other kinds of berries. As he leaves his shelter, he stands back and examines it and is proud of his work. Brian is surprised to realize that he has begun to think of the crude dwelling as home.
Once again taking precautions so as not to get lost, Brian ventures farther up the shore than he did the day before. He discovers another path through the forest torn out by the wind, similar to the one on which the plane had come down. To his delight, Brian finds raspberries growing in the clearing. He eats enough to satiate his hunger then gathers more to take back to the shelter.
While he is busy packing the fruit into his torn windbreaker, Brian hears “a slight noise” behind him and is startled to see a bear. The bear is “black, with a cinnamon-colored nose, not twenty feet from him and...huge.” Paralyzed by fear, Brian can do nothing, but the bear just stares at him for a moment, then, eating berries, he ambles slowly on. In terror, Brian instinctively begins to run away at full speed, back toward the shelter. After a short distance, however, he stops and thinks about what just happened. He realizes that the bear made no move to hurt him; it was interested in “eating berries, not people.” Brian understands something important—he had not been in danger. He returns to the raspberry patch and finishes gathering berries.
By the time Brian gets back to the shelter, rain begins to fall. Inside his shelter, however, he is “dry and snug.” As he listens to the downpour, he enjoys the syrup from the berries and, for the first time since the crash, does not worry about how he will survive. When the rain stops and evening approaches, Brian goes down to the lake to wash then returns to his shelter to settle in for the night. Although he “accepted and understood” that the bear he encountered today had not wanted to hurt him, the incident is “still much in his thoughts.” As darkness falls, Brian takes his hatchet out of his belt and holds it by the handle as he goes to sleep.