When Hatchet starts, Brian is 13 years old, just barely a teenager, and he seems more like a child than an adolescent. His life is defined mostly by common experiences (school, television, riding bikes with friends), but also by a trauma: he saw his mother kissing a man other than his father and his parents later divorced. At the novel's start, he's mostly trying to deal with the emotional pain the divorce causes. However, partway through the long flight to visit his father at a Canadian oilfield, the pilot dies of a heart attack. Brian manages to guide the plane down but is then stranded in the wilderness alone for 54 days with little but a hatchet. His time in the wilderness, fighting for his own survival, transforms Brian, making him a new person. He faces fear, uncertainty, despair, and life-and-death situations. By passing through many trials, both physical and emotional, Brian becomes stronger and mature beyond his years—an autonomous, patient, and resourceful person who is more aware of himself and the world around him. More importantly, he develops a strong, resilient character that helps him deal with any traumas life may bring.
The pilot who rescues Brian appears at the end of Chapter 19. He is traveling to buy furs from Cree trapping camps when he hears the emergency transmitter Brian finds in the wrecked plane's survival pack.
Man kissed by Mrs. Robeson
Brian only sees this man at a distance, when his mother sits with him, then kisses him romantically.
Perpich is Brian's former English teacher, who taught him about the importance of having a positive attitude.
The pilot is first remote, then friendly; he shows Brian a bit about how to pilot a plane before dying of a heart attack. Brian isn't sure if the pilot's name is "Jim" or "Jake."
Brian's father is an engineer who designed a new drill bit. He works in the Canadian oil fields. He's unaware that his wife is having an affair and doesn't know why she wants a divorce. Brian struggles with keeping this secret from his dad.
Brian's mother works in real estate. Brian is angry with her because he knows that she has had an affair with another man. His parents divorce soon after Brian discovers this.
Terry is one of Brian's friends from his life before the plane crash. He and Terry discussed wilderness survival in a playful way and decided what kind of shelter might work best in the wild.