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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen-Free Online Study Guide/Notes/Book Summary
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Brian Robeson, a thirteen year old boy traveling in a small airplane to Canada to spend the summer with his father, is involved in a plane crash in an uninhabited part of the Canadian woods after the pilot dies of a heart attack. Brian then must find a way to survive and in the process, discovers much about himself and becomes a man. The motif within this story is a bildungsroman, or a young boyís coming of age.


The theme of never giving up is one of the most prevalent themes in that we are shown throughout the story that without hope, life is meaningless. Brian learns this the hard way, but it is what sustains him when he faces the most difficult challenges to his survival.

Another theme is perseverance and determination. This is especially seen in how Brian learns to solve problems that will potentially be life-threatening. He calls upon his intelligence, memory, and youth to overcome such experiences as creating fire, fighting off a moose, building shelter, and finding food.

A third theme is that of maturity. It is not enough that Brian must grow up to hone his survival skills; he must also learn the compassion and maturity it will take to keep the Secret forever secret.

Another theme is that of education. The pilot said that flying was just like anything else: it just takes learning. This will be especially applicable to Brian when he spends each day learning something new about survival and life in general.


At times, the mood is just sad as Brian thinks about the Secret that led to his parentsí divorce; at other times, it is fearful as he learns to deal with the dangers Nature throws at him; finally, it is uplifting as the reader comes to applaud Brianís tenacity and will to survive before he is finally rescued.


Gary Paulsen was born on May 17, 1939, in Minnesota. He constantly moved as a child, because his father was in the military. Both of his parents were alcoholics, and he often used books as an escape. Early in his adulthood, he held many jobs to support himself, including being a trapper and joining the army. He decided eventually to try writing and even became the associate editor of a menís magazine in Hollywood, California.

His first book was Special War, published in 1966. This was followed by nearly forty more, as well as several articles and short stories. In 1977, he faced a lawsuit over his book, Winterkill, and even though he won it, it was at a high cost. During this time, he tried dog sledding which led to other books like Dogsong. A heart attack in 1990 has slowed him down, but has not stopped his interest in sledding, motorcycling, and sailing. He presently lives with his wife, Ruth, in La Luz, New Mexico, and Minnesota.

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