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by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet Chapter 8 Summary

  • Brian wakes up to a sound like a growl in the night. This can't be good.
  • It's pitch black and he can't see anything, but there is an odd smell in the shelter. He hears a slithering, brushing sound near his feet, and he kicks out, throwing the hatchet toward the sound at the same time. The hatchet hits the wall of his cave, creating a little shower of sparks in the darkness. 
  • Brian's leg explodes in pain, "as if a hundred needles had been driven into it" (8.3). Man, it just keeps getting better.
  • The slithering sound continues, and Brian can see a vague shape going toward the door of the shelter and moving outside. He feels his leg and finds that there are needles in it—the intruder was a porcupine, and its quills are stuck in his calf. 
  • One by one, although it hurts a lot, Brian pulls all eight quills out of his leg. When he's finally finished, he sits in the dark, crying and thinking that he just can't take any more. He puts his head down and cries until he's all cried out. 
  • Later, the narrator tells us, Brian would look back on this time as the point where he learned "the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn't work" (8.12). Wow, and here Shmoop thought it was "always bring an extra pair of underwear." You learn something new every day.
  • Finally, Brian falls asleep again, and he dreams about his father. In the dream, his father is trying to tell him something—he's making gestures with his hand as if he's scratching something, trying to say something to Brian, but unable to make a sound. Then Brian dreams that his friend Terry is starting a fire in a barbecue pit at the park. He points to the fire as if he's trying to get Brian to notice something about it. 
  • What do they mean?
  • Brian wakes up and eats some raspberries. His leg is very stiff from the porcupine attack. He notices his hatchet lying by the rock wall, and as the sun catches and glints against the hatchet, Brian remembers the sparks the hatchet made when it hit the rock the night before. He hits the hatchet against the wall, and more sparks come flying off. 
  • He can make a fire, he realizes, with the hatchet. 
  • Eureka.

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