Chapter 10

Brian takes such comfort from the fire that he feels reluctant to stray from it. Knowing he will need to keep the fire going, he spends the afternoon gathering wood for the night and the coming days, falling into a deep sleep when he completes his work. A noise awakens him in the middle of the night, but nothing enters his shelter and he dozes off again. In the morning he finds tracks to and from the lake. Following them in the sand, Brian comes to a pile where many eggs lie; a turtle had come up from the water to lay its eggs. Most importantly, it strikes Brian him that the eggs provide him with a more substantial kind of food than he has yet eaten. Thinking of his Uncle Carter, who used to eat raw eggs in the morning, he decides that he needs nourishment badly enough to do so himself. Overcoming the odd taste, Brian eats several eggs and, saving the others, decides to eat one a day. Thinking of the searchers, Brian hopes they will soon rescue him.

Chapter 11

Brian occupies himself by storing the eggs, cleaning his camp, and stacking wood; these activities help keep him from falling into depression. Seeing his reflection in the lake, Brian notes how his body has changed. His extra weight has disappeared and his skin has browned. More significantly, however, he notes the mental transformation he has undergone. He observes his surroundings with a new keenness, his senses honed to pick up on the goings-on of the woods. His mind and body have also made a connection that had not existed before his stay in the woods. Standing atop a bluff overlooking the lake, the beauty of the lake and woods overwhelm him. He soon has an important realization that he can catch fish in the lake for food. Upon closer inspection, he notices that the lake appears full of fish of many kinds. Initially attempting to catch them with his bare hands, Brian soon concludes he needs some sort of fish spear.

Chapter 12

Brian spends many hours perfecting his fish spear, but in the end it fails to help him catch any fish. In need of a way to send the spear into the water, Brian decides to make a bow and arrow. While searching for wood, Brian almost steps on a bird and it flies up in a flurry of feathers. It occurs to Brian to try to catch these birds, slightly smaller than chickens, which he calls "foolbirds." At that moment a plane flies overhead, giving Brian hope that the searchers have come for him. Gesturing and yelling at the top of his lungs, Brian falls into despair and hopelessness when the plane flies past him and away into the horizon. He begins to lose faith that he will ever see his family and friends again, and experiences profound emptiness and loneliness.


The contrast between urban and wilderness environments reappears in these chapters. Earlier in the novel, this contrast revolved mostly around Brian's adjustment to the woods. He had to become self-sufficient and only then appreciated the conveniences of urban life. In these chapters, however, Brian has adjusted to his new life, and can look back on the person he was before the plane crash with some distance. While he investigates the turtle tracks, Brian demonstrates his consciousness of his urban habits. Paulsen writes, "He smiled. City boy, he thought. Oh, you city boy with your city ways—he made a mirror in his mind, a mirror of himself, and saw how he must look. City boy with your city ways sitting in the sand trying to read the tracks and not knowing, not understanding." Here, he acknowledges that nature has a lot to teach him and that his "city boy" identity must be shed in favor of habits more fitting to his environment.

Brian undergoes significant changes, both physical and mental, in these chapters. His senses have become more acute and his mind more aware. He begins to understand that self-sufficiency requires enormous effort and involves significant trial and error. Brian's mind and body begin to communicate with one another and become increasingly linked. In Chapter 11 Paulsen writes, "his mind and his body, had come together as well, had made a connection with each other that he didn't quite understand." Because survival in the natural environment relies to such an extent on the body and its condition, the mind must work to support the body. In Brian's case, he brainstorms about ways in which he can catch fish, build a shelter, make fire, and other necessities. The natural world, often more so than the civilized world, calls for a deep connection between mind and body.

Gary Paulsen continues to use repetition as a literary technique. In this part of the book, the line that appears again and again is, "There were these things to do." The repetition of this line emphasizes Brian's new perspective on his life in the wilderness. In the first few weeks after the plane crash Brian focused on the world in which he used to live, constantly seeking and hoping for a way out of his situation. He remained relatively immobile because he thought his stay in the woods would be short-term, and because he pitied himself. In this part of the book, on the other hand, Brian accepts that it may be some time before he leaves the woods. Starting to adopt a more active and positive outlook and steering clear of self-pity, Brian makes efforts to gather food, make fire, and perfect his tools. These efforts also hint that he now looks toward the future and prepares for what it might hold. His hunger for hamburgers and for similar urban conveniences wanes, a new hunger taking its place. Paulsen writes, "This was hunger that he knew would be there always, even when he had food—a hunger that made him look for things, see things. A hunger to make him hunt." Brian's curiosity only grows with his ability to use his senses and with the enjoyment he derives from the surrounding environment.