Chapter 13

While Brian searches for foolbirds, as he calls the chicken-like birds he has discovered, his instincts tell him that some creature lurks nearby. At that moment he spots a big beautiful wolf, which then walks up the hill and away from Brian, followed by three others. After the plane flies by him without spotting him, Brian feels incredibly defeated. He even tries to commit suicide by cutting himself with his hatchet. When he survives, however, he determines never to let death tempt him again, and in that moment Brian transforms himself into the "new Brian." He finally figures out how to catch the many fish in the lake when he realizes he must account for the refraction of light underwater and readjust his aim. On that first day that he catches fish, he feasts on them and, satisfied with his accomplishment and the wealth of food it produced, feels hopeful. This hope, however, differs from his earlier hope that he will be rescued. He now believes the chances of his being rescued are slim. Rather, he possesses "tough hope" that he can survive on his own with his new knowledge of the wilderness.

Chapter 14

A skunk comes to investigate the spot in the sand where the turtle has laid its eggs. Brian yells at the skunk, which reacts by spraying him. Blinded for nearly two hours as a result of the spray, Brian runs into the lake to wash himself. The skunk has also eaten the eggs he had stored on the shore. Brian learned two lessons from this incident: make a sturdy shelter and put food in a protected place. Spending days strengthening his shelter with additional wood, and finding a high tree for a food shelf that bears would be unable to reach, Brian still faces the problem of a lack of food. After brainstorming about this problem, he resolves to construct a small pond in which he may store the fish he has caught, attracted by the remains of the fish he had already eaten. Brian demonstrates his forethought but not only finding food for the moment, but also developing some system of storage for the future.

Chapter 15

While in the woods, Brian measures time by events he experiences rather than by societal measures of time, although he does mark the passing days on the stone next to his shelter. His real sense of time, however, revolves around events such as the day of First Meat. Living off berries and fish, Brian still had still craved more substantial food, meat in particular. He has thought of trying to catch the foolbirds that abound in the woods, but despite their stupidity has a difficult time catching them. They tend to fly away at the last second, and are difficult to spot. Training his eyes to see the outline of a foolbird, Brian decides to employ his spear rather than his bow and arrow, which enables him to lunge at the birds. Moving sideways rather than straight at the bird and lunging at it at the last second, he catches his first meat. Cleaning the chicken proves harder than he had expected, and he notes once more that in the past, and in a world where his mother had cooked for him, such a duty would never have occurred to him. Brian rigs up a system to rotate the chicken over a flame and sits back to watch it cook. Anxious to have his first bite, Brian pulls off a piece that has not quite cooked thoroughly yet. He reminded himself of the importance of patience, and when the meat has finally cooked through, Brian enjoys his feast more than anything he has ever eaten.


After the plane flies overhead and the pilot does not spot him, Brian falls into the depths of hopelessness. His attempt at suicide represents the lowest point in Brian's emotional state during his entire stay in the wilderness, and certainly indicates that he considers a life in which he can hold out so little hope for his rescue unworthy of living. However, in the end this event seems to have positive consequences; once Brian pulls himself out of his miserable state, he recognizes this suicide attempt as another mistake from which he must learn, feeling virtually reborn after the experience. While he had tried to take his own life earlier, he now feels it has become more important than ever to affirm life and live with as much vigor as possible. Although Brian undergoes several major events in this story, which all have tremendous influence on his future behavior, the changes in his attitude after his suicide attempt are the most pronounced of any of Brian's transformations. Brian himself even emphasizes this transformation by distinguishing the "new" Brian from the "old" Brian in his mind.

In this part of the book Brian notices that the events of his life in the wilderness defy societal measures of time. Rather, the routines of nature dictate his behavior. He must follow nature's cycles and weather patterns, but he can largely shape his day around his needs for sleep and food, as well as his activities to improve his shelter or find food. Brian begins to define and measure time by the major events in his wilderness life. Giving a name to each major accomplishment or event, Brian formulates his own notion of time. For example, he calls his first successful hunt for a foolbird the day of First Meat.

The author once again points to the communion Brian experiences with nature. When Brian spots the wolf on the hill, Paulsen writes, "He knew the wolf now, as the wolf knew him, and he nodded to it, nodded and smiled." In this incident the reader senses how Brian has changed over the course of the book. When he met the bear for the first time in the berry patch, he initially feared it, but when he meets the wolves on the hill, he immediately acknowledges them and respects them. Fear vanishes in favor of his appreciation for their beauty and nobility, as he stands for what seems like a long time to him, simply watching them. At this point Brian has lived there for some time and feels he can identify with the animals because he lives a similarly simple life in the woods. He too must struggle to find food and to avoid the dangers of nature, bringing him closer to the animals and enabling him to understand them in a way that had been impossible before he had shared their environment.

In addition to one-word sentences or short phrases, Gary Paulsen also uses capitalization to emphasize certain events, such as the day of First Meat. Later on in the novel as well the author capitalizes names of Brian's experiences. Not only capitalization draw special attention to specific words, it also indicates an important event in Brian's life, similar to the capitalization of an historical event.