Scat Summary & Study Guide

Carl Hiaasen

Scat

  • 42-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 26 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD
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Scat Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 42-page guide for “Scat” by Carl Hiaasen includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 26 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Fragile Environment and Parental Abandonment.

Plot Summary

Carl Hiaasen’s Scat! is a young adult thriller with a comic tone and an environmental message. Nick Waters and his best friend, Marta Gonzalez, are students at the private Truman School in Naples, Florida. When their biology teacher, Mrs. Bunny Starch, disappears, the two students are drawn into a conflict between a ruthless oil company and an informal band of environmentalists bent on protecting the breeding grounds of an endangered Florida panther and her cub.

The novel opens in Mrs. Starch’s class. She lives up to her terrifying reputation by scolding and humiliating the class misfit, Duane Scrod Jr., who finally—having had enough—takes a bite out of her pencil and walks out. Duane Jr. has two arson charges on his juvenile record, and he comes from a broken home: his mother abandoned the family, leaving his father a bitter, paranoid wreck. He fails to show up for the class field trip to the Black Cypress Swamp, a region of the Florida Everglades that is home to many rare species, including the critically endangered Florida panther. While the students are exploring the swamp, they hear a gunshot followed by a piercing, animalistic scream, and an encroaching wildfire suddenly chases them out of the area. One of the students drops her inhaler, and Mrs. Starch runs back after it, promising to meet back up with the students at the school.

She never arrives—though the inhaler is dropped off on the student’s front porch late that night. The principal, Dr. Dressler, reports Mrs. Starch’s disappearance to the police. Since Duane Jr. hasn’t shown up, either, rumors that Duane Jr. set the fire to get revenge on Mrs. Starch fly. During this time, Nick worries about his father, who is serving in the Iraq War and hasn’t contacted the family in a while. It is soon revealed that Nick’s dad has been critically injured—he’s lost his right arm—and flown home to recover. When Dr. Dressler ventures out to Mrs. Starch’s spooky, overgrown home, he finds no sign of life beyond a letter from her in the mailbox, addressed to him, claiming she has been called to a family emergency. Knowing that Mrs. Starch has no family, Dr. Dressler becomes even more suspicious.

Drake McBride, the evil but ultimately foolish president of the Red Diamond Energy Corporation, has devised a scheme to drill for oil in a protected sector of the Black Vine Swamp in order to receive an expensive payout for the drilling rights from the government agencies that want to preserve the wetlands. His assistant, Jimmy Lee Bayliss, set the fire during the field trip to keep the children from stumbling onto their illegal operation, and McBride fired the gunshot that the students heard to scare away a panther. Duane Jr. suddenly reappears, having cleaned up his appearance and attitude, to find that Mrs. Starch’s class has been handed over to an incompetent crazy person named Wendell Waxmo. When Marta sees Duane Jr. riding in Mrs. Starch’s car, with an unknown man driving, she and Nick decide to investigate what has happened to their teacher.

While snooping around Mrs. Starch’s house, Nick and Marta are interrupted by a gruff, intimidating man named Twilly Spree. Twilly Spree is an independently wealthy, militant environmentalist who has been sabotaging the Red Diamond drilling operation and clearly knows both Duane Jr. and Mrs. Starch. To throw off the arson investigation Jimmy Lee Bayliss frames Duane Jr. by stealing his backpack and planting it at the scene of the fire with a butane torch inside; before going on the run from the cops, Duane Jr. tells Nick he is innocent, and Nick becomes even more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. Finally Nick spots Mrs. Starch’s car parked outside a pizza place, and he pulls Marta into the backseat; when Twilly Spree comes back to the car, they demand to be taken to Mrs. Starch.

Mrs. Starch has been hiding out in a secret camp in the Black Vine Swamp because she has been caring for a baby Florida panther. When McBride’s gunshot scared the panther away on the day of the field trip, she left behind her young cub who, not being weaned, requires around-the-clock nursing. While Mrs. Starch has been taking care of the panther cub, Twilly and Duane Jr. have been tracking the mother panther. They hope to reunite the mother and baby before it’s too late. Nick and Marta are amazed to see the caring, nurturing side of Mrs. Starch, and they vow to help save the baby panther.

Eventually, they track the mother panther using her feces or “scat” to a specific location and carry the baby cub to the spot, but before the mother can be drawn in by the baby’s cries, another gunshot scares her off. Drake McBride, desperate to keep the Fish and Wildlife agents from following an endangered panther onto his secret drilling operation, fires his gun wildly into the trees, hoping to kill it or scare it away for good. One of the bullets hits Mrs. Starch, and when Nick attempts to carry the baby panther up to its mother, who has hidden in a tall tree, he is hit, too. Nick keeps climbing, though, and finally the mother and baby are reunited as Nick falls unconscious to the ground. In the aftermath, McBride and Bayliss are both caught and sent to jail, and Mrs. Starch resumes command of her classroom, where Duane Jr. applies himself in earnest, hoping to pursue a career in environmental science.

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Chapters 1-3