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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen-Free Online Study Guide/Notes/Book Summary
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IMPORTANT / KEY FACTS SUMMARY

Title

Hatchet

Author

Gary Paulsen

Date Published

1987

Meaning of the Title

It refers to the tool that had been given to him by his mother merely as an observation that he was heading into Canada but which became the most important tool to assure his survival.

Setting

Hampton, New York and the forests of northern Canada.

Protagonist

Brian Robeson who comes of age after crashing in the Canadian wilderness.

Antagonist

The greatest antagonist is the forest and all its dangers, but the other antagonist is Brian himself who must call on all of his strengths and intelligence to survive life in the wilderness.

Mood

At times, the mood is just sad as Brian thinks about the Secret that led to his parents’ 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 Brian’s tenacity and will to survive before he is finally rescued.

Point of View

It is written omnisciently as if viewed by a source outside all the action.

Tense

This story is written in the past tense.


Rising Action

The rising action begins in chapter one when Brian’s plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness and he is forced to find a way to survive. It continues with him learning new skills every day and growing and maturing until he is finally rescued.

Exposition

Brian Robeson is a thirteen year old boy who survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness after the pilot dies of a heart attack. He is forced to find a way to survive, and in the ensuing fifty-four days he is lost, he learns many new things such as building a shelter, finding food, and making a fire. He eventually retrieves the survival pack from the tail of the plane, ironically, after he has learned many ways to survive without it.

Climax

The climax of the story occurs when Brian finally finds a way into the tail of the plane after a tornado dislodges it from the bottom of the lake. Within it are the “treasures” he believes he will need to continue his life in the woods of Canada.

Outcome

After Brian obtains the treasure from the tail of the crashed plane, he finds an emergency transmitter which he accidentally turns on. He doesn’t realize he’s done so, because there is so perceivable change in it, and he disregards it while he takes pleasure from all the other supplies he finds in the pack. Just then, he hears the sound of another plane which lands on the lake. The pilot had picked up the signal from the emergency transmitter and now has come to rescue him at last. This is followed by an Epilogue which explains all the Brian learned from his survival experience and how, even though his parents do not reconcile, he can keep the Secret just that, a secret, so no one else will be hurt by it.

Major Themes

Never give up; Perseverance and determination; Maturity; and Education

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