Hatchet Characters & Analysis

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  • 0:04 Hatchet Background
  • 0:25 The Characters
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

''Hatchet,'' by Gary Paulsen, is the story of a young teenager, Brian, who manages to survive a plane crash alone in unfamiliar woods. In this lesson, we will learn about the people who influenced Brian to help him stay alive.

Hatchet Background

If you were stranded in an unknown wilderness, what memories would you draw on to help you survive? In Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, the protagonist, Brian, is alone for most of the story, but thoughts of people at home keep him going. Let's learn more about the principal characters in this story, who are the characters who make the most impact on the story.

The Characters

Brian Robeson is an angry 13-year-old boy with a secret. While riding bikes with a friend, he catches his mother kissing another man. Suddenly, his mother wants a divorce, and his father is left confused. Despite his anger towards her, Brian can't bring himself to share the secret and accepts the hatchet she gives him as a parting gift as he flies to Canada for visitation with his father. This is explored by the following quote: ''Knowing what he knew, even with the anger, the hot white hate of his anger at her, he still felt bad for not speaking to her, and so to humor her, he loosened his belt and pulled the right side out and put the hatchet on and rethreaded the belt.'' After his plane crashes in a lake in the Canadian woods, Brian learns survival skills and how to cope with his parent's divorce.

Brian's mother breaks up the family when she becomes involved with another man. She doesn't realize that Brian knows her secret. She just knows that he is angry with her about something. Mother is the one who gives Brian the hatchet, which ultimately plays a crucial role in his survival.

Brian's father is a mechanical engineer working in the oil fields in Canada. He is perplexed when his wife suddenly asks for a divorce. ''Brian's father did not understand as Brian did, knew only that Brian's mother wanted to break the marriage apart.'' As a result, Brian's father receives only summer visitation with Brian. When Brian is stranded in the woods, he has a dream about his father and Terry that helps him remember how to start a fire with his hatchet.

Terry is a friend of Brian's. Terry and Brian were together when Brian learned about 'the secret.' While Brian is fighting to survive, he recalls memories of explorations with Terry to help guide him. For example, when he finds raspberries, he is able to identify them because ''… there were some raspberry bushes in the park and he and Terry were always picking and eating them when they biked past.''

The pilot is a friendly man in his 40s named Jim, or Jake, or something who is flying the plane taking Brian to Canada to spend his summer vacation with his father. He lets Brian take control of the plane for a little while. ''All of flying is easy. Just takes learning. Like everything else. Like everything else,'' says the pilot. However, he suffers a heart attack during the flight and dies leaving Brian alone to land the plane. Although he only appears at the beginning of the story, the pilot drives the plot by creating the scenario in which Brian must fight to survive.

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