After a terrible plane crash, Brian Robeson learns to survive alone in the wild, and in the meantime, develops manhood. The setting of the story is not clear, for Brian is very lost. Brian flies out of the airport in Hampton, New York, and is headed to the oilfields of North Canada, in order to visit his father. On his way there, the pilot gets a sudden heart attack, and bumps the steering wheel. This caused them to go off course. Brian lands the plane somewhere in the Northern Canadian woods, far away from where he was supposed to end up. The North Woods of Canada are home to a variety of animal species, including wolves, deer, black bears, otters, skunks, and many more. This setting of wildlife has a big impact on the plot. Brian is at the mercy of many dangerous animals. Some examples were when he got attacked by a porcupine, sprayed by a skunk, and charged by a moose. He must muster all the courage in him to survive in the wild. Lastly, this forces him to learn the “primitive ways of man”, like making a fire using sticks. This setting is the base of the story, for only in these conditions will he be faced with so many wild dangers.
The inciting incident of the story was when the pilot suddenly gets a fatal heart attack and dies moments later. He tries to send for help by radioing the station several times, but the connection soon breaks. It is up to Brian to save himself. Remembering the brief flying lesson he had from the lesson, he steers the plane and crash lands into a lake. He swims to shore and then faints due to exhaustion. When he wakes up, he knows that he has to find a food source and shelter. He eats gut berries(choke cherries), but gets sick since they were poisonous. He has to find a new food source and spots a raspberry bush. Now that he had the food problem covered, he had to find a suitable shelter. He decides to buy a lean-to, which is a shelter made of sticks and twigs. Once, he noticed that striking his hatchet on the stone created sparks. He tries to make a fire, and after many failures, finally succeeds. This is the turning point of his journey. Since he mastered fire, he could cook food instead of only eating berries. For a while after he masters fire, Brian has an easier time. He finds turtle eggs and starts exploring ways to hunt and fish. He had to “invent” the bow and arrow. After a while, he can easily catch fish to eat. Once, a search plane passes over him but sadly doesn’t spot Brian, which leaves him devastated. He loses his hope and will for a while, and even tried to commit suicide by cutting himself with the hachet. But soon he gets back at it. Brian perfects his bow and arrow design, and hunts fool birds and rabbits. One night, a skunk came because it smelled the hidden turtle eggs. Brian gets sprayed and almost loses his food supply. However, his optimism grows stronger with each setback, and he is determined to survive until he gets rescued.
This was until he got struck by the tornado. This is the climax of the story. Even though his shelter and food supply was all gone, Brian discovers the tail of the plane sticking out from the water after the tornado. He gets hopeful because there is a survival pack in the plane. After building a raft, he sails to the plane and uses his hatchet to get into the tail. He loses his hatchet and dives after it. He not only finds his hatchet but also the survival pack. When he returns to shore, he finds out what treasures the pack contained. It contains a .22 survival rifle, sleeping gear, pots, pans, food, matches, and an emergency transmitter. Thinking the transmitter is broken, he flips the switches on and off a few times before tossing it away. He cooks a feast and then drifts off to sleep. Without warning, a bush plane arrives and Brian gets rescued after spending 54 days in the woods. Brian returns to the city to live with his mother.He researches about the plants and animals he found, and sometimes dreams about his experiences in the woods. His parents never reconcile, and Bian cannot bring himself to tell his dad about the man with blond hair.
The main character of the story is Brian Robeson. He starts out as an ordinary thirteen-year old boy who lives in New York City. He lives with his mother after his parent’s divorce. He is on his way to visit his father in the oilfields of Canada when the pilot gets a sudden heart attack and dies. The plane crashes, and Brian suddenly finds himself stranded in a desert place where there are no human beings but himself. The only tools he has with him are a hatchet and a tattered windbreaker. He is torn apart both externally and internally. His mother’s affair with another man affects Brian deeply. He bears the burden of “The Secret”, and is troubled to inform his father of it. Brian also has to face dangers from wildlife. He must learn to adapt to his new environment. It will take all his self-reliance, determination, and knowledge to survive. Brian learns to hunt game like small fish and foolbirds. He blends in with nature and appreciates its beauty. He realizes that as long as he is positive, he can accomplish his goals to achieve success. In order to live for 54 days in the woods, Brian shows the values of optimism, self-reliance, perseverance, and rationality. He arrives in the woods as a vulnerable and pitiful little boy. Brian gradually learns the power of positive thinking. Initially, Brian’s setbacks leave him frustrated, hopeless, and full of self-pity. He dreams of his past life of pleasure and ease. Things just came to him, and he never had trouble acquiring his daily needs. Now, alone in the woods, he has to fend for himself. Also, Brian recalls the words his English teacher used to say to him. Mr. Perpich was always saying, “You are your most valuable asset.” Brian realizes a little that it was up to him to improve his conditions and survive. One night, he was attacked by a porcupine and got hundreds of quills driven into his leg. For some time, Brian cries in pain and despair, but soon reemerges with a new perspective. Crying isn’t beneficial. In the city, it may arouse pity in people. But in the wild, he is alone and must bring about change. The most important rule in survival is that feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t work. This realization motivates Brian mentally. He has a general positive attitude, besides some lapses, most noticeably the suicide attempt. With each setback, he grows stronger. For example, the moose attack gravely injured him, but he persevered and kept fighting. Even though the tornado destroyed his shelter, he remained hopeful and discovered the tail of the plane, which led to his eventual rescue. I learned from Brian that in times of danger, negative values like self-pity and frustration only weakens your resolve. Dependence on others doesn’t help. If everyone relies on others to make a change, nothing will happen in society. I have to bring about a change to enhance my life.
The major theme of the story is developing manhood. At the beginning of the story, Brian thinks of himself as part of a family, so the divorce hit him with immense pain. He is no longer able to identify himself with his family. He is not ready to accept reality, which is becoming an adult and a totally separate person. The plane crash and his stay in the woods forces Brian to accept his manhood and make individual choices. He is faced with a decision which will change his whole life: To grow up and embrace challenges, or die. He accepts the challenge and all the responsibilities that come with it. He has experienced the pressures and difficulties of adulthood during his time alone in the woods, and that is what makes him a man. When embracing challenges, Brian also develops self-worth and courage. His new found self made him realize that life is worth living, and he would never let death appeal to him again. He realizes that suicide is a way of cowardice, for he is unready to accept responsibility and challenges. He musters the courage he never knew he had, and uses it to overcome fears and difficulties. I can learn from him by persevering through challenges in life and solving problems, for that is what makes me stronger.
My favorite part of the story was when Brian found the survival pack. He was finally rewarded for his courage and self-reliance during his stay in the woods. He came so far from a mere child to a man who chose to be tough and embrace challenges. My least favorite part was when the plane missed him and flew away. He lost his will for a while and was desperate because that was the plane which was searching for him. He even tries to end the pain and suffering by cutting himself with the hatchet. Yes, I would recommend this book to a friend because it shows the importance of self-reliance and optimism. You can only bring changes to enhance your life by making rational choices, relying on only yourself, and thinking positively.