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Hatchet | Study Guide

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet | Quotes


All of flying is easy. Just takes learning. Like everything else. Like everything else.

Pilot, Chapter 1

During the brief flight that is intended to take Brian to see his father, he sits beside the pilot, a man he does not know. When the pilot thinks Brian might be interested in the plane, he starts giving him basic lessons on how to fly it, saying that, "like everything else," you can learn it. The pilot's comment about how "all flying is easy" turns out to be false in one way but true in another. The plane will crash in a few hours. But the brief lessons he gives Brian save Brian's life, helping him guide the plane so it can land. The idea that everything "just takes learning" is one that Brian will live out every day as he learns how to survive in the wilderness.


He was alone. In a roaring plane with no pilot he was alone. Alone.

Narrator, Chapter 1

These words end Chapter 1. With them, Paulsen quickly propels Brian into a crisis that will force him to take the first steps to saving his own life. With the repetition of the word alone the author also establishes Brian's complete isolation, a theme that will run throughout the book.


GOING TO DIE, Brian thought. Going to die, gonna die, gonna die—his whole brain screamed it in the sudden silence.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Brian has these obsessive thoughts at the start of Chapter 3, just after the plane's engine dies. With no coping skills, he assumes that when something bad happens, he is sure to die. In the chapter that follows, however, he is brave and resourceful, putting aside fear to focus and guide the plane to a landing. Surviving the plane crash is the first of many situations that will change his approach to challenges.


The memory was a knife cutting into him. Slicing deep into him with hate.

Narrator, Chapter 4

Brian remembers the day he discovered "the Secret," the fact that his mother was seeing another man. He dreams about this event when he passes out after the plane crash. By juxtaposing these aspects of the story, Paulsen links them. Both the "Secret" and the crash tear Brian's life apart.


Destroyed. The word came. I would've been destroyed and torn and smashed. Driven into the rocks and destroyed.

Brian Robeson, Chapter 4

Here Brian realizes just how unlikely his survival was: the plane missed complete destruction by a small angle. If the plane had been on a slightly different course, it—and Brian—would have hit the rocks and been broken to pieces. This is also a good example of Paulsen's simple style: he repeats key words and strings adjectives together with "and," creating a strong rhythm and suggesting the character's state of mind.


His eyes snapped open ... and there were these things about himself that he knew, instantly.

Narrator, Chapter 5

This description of Brian waking up from his first night's sleep at the lake has a literal and a symbolic meaning. The crash "opens his eyes." From this point on he will understand the world more immediately and intensely than he did in the past.


So fast .... So fast things change.

Brian Robeson, Chapter 8

Brian has this thought as he's trying to recover from a porcupine's attack. He had gone to bed content with his life for the first time since the crash, his belly full from eating berries. Now his leg is full of painful quills. The concept of rapid change is a general principle of survival in the wilderness. Brian must adapt to sudden changes, as readers see when he is attacked by a moose and threatened by a tornado.


I will have a fire here, he thought, and struck again—I will have fire from the hatchet.

Narrator, Chapter 8

When Brian throws his hatchet at the porcupine invading his shelter, it hits the rocks embedded in the wall and shoots off sparks. Afterward, Brian has dreams in which his father and his friend Terry try to communicate the meaning of the sparks to him. This sentence shows Brian acting on that realization in a major turning point. Fire will enable him to cook food, signal for help, and drive biting insects away. The process of making fire also demonstrates how resourceful and persistent Brian has become as he learns to survive alone.


There were these things to do.

Narrator, Chapter 11

Throughout the novel, Paulsen uses repetition to indicate when something is important. Brian thinks this line or a variation on it several times in Chapter 11. The repetition signals that life in the wilderness is labor-intensive: Brian really does have a lot to do. But it also shows how his character has changed. Brian isn't sitting passively, hoping and waiting to be saved. He is acting with determination and persistence to build a new life.


Forty-two days [had passed] ... since he had died and been born as the new Brian.

Narrator, Chapter 13

This line sums up just how much his experience in the wilderness has changed Brian. He has been symbolically reborn as a new person. Strikingly, it isn't the crash itself that kills the old Brian; that event has taken place 47 days before. Instead Brian is reborn five days after the crash when a plane flies overhead, offering the possibility of rescue, only to fly away. In despair, Brian nearly kills himself with his hatchet but stops after cutting his arm. The next morning he realizes he is a new person who wants to live and so must act differently.


He could feel new hope building in him ... hope in his knowledge.

Narrator, Chapter 13

Brian understands that he no longer looks outside himself to find hope but can trust in his growing knowledge of how to survive. He repeatedly observes, reasons, and experiments in his efforts to survive. He trusts his instincts but isn't afraid to learn from his mistakes, and his self-awareness increases as he learns new skills.


Come on ... is that all you can hit me with—a moose and a tornado?

Brian Robeson, Chapter 16

Brian experiences two traumatic events in quick succession: a moose attacks him, almost killing him, and a tornado hits his shelter, almost destroying it. His response dramatizes and celebrates just how much he has changed in his time in the wilderness. He now knows that he can handle whatever the world wants to throw at him.


Sense, he had to use his sense. That's all it took to solve problems—just sense.

Narrator, Chapter 17

Brian's thought here sounds simple, even clichéd. However, it expresses a great triumph. At this point in the novel, Brian is building a raft to go out to the plane, which has partially emerged from the lake after the tornado. The problem is that he has no way to hold the branches that form the raft together. He has to figure out a way to solve this problem, and he does, by weaving the limbs of the branches so they fit together. Thinking problems through sensibly is now instinctive.


Would you like something to eat?

Brian Robeson, Chapter 19

When a bush pilot responds to the signal Brian has transmitted, Brian introduces himself and calmly offers the man something to eat. His words show how much Brian has changed. He treats the lake and his shelter as his home and behaves like a host. He has nearly starved to death but is now in a position where he can politely and graciously offer food to visitors.


Most of the changes would turn out to be permanent.

Narrator, Epilogue

Most of the novel follows Brian with a close third-person point of view. In the epilogue, however, Paulsen pulls back to give a wider view of Brian and how his experiences in the wilderness changed him. Some of these changes, like his severe weight loss, disappear with time. Most, though, run deeper and last forever. With this flat statement Paulsen shows Brian will forever be more reflective, observant, and appreciative of life because of his ordeal.

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