Mafatu overcomes a number of obstacles in the book.
He endures the storm by drawing strength from the god Maui, his dog, and the albatross. He "forces himself to do something dreaded" (Chapter 3) when he takes the spearhead from the cannibals' sacrificial altar to kill the wild boar. He saves his dog and himself from the hammerhead and the octopus by fighting bravely and stabbing both opponents to death. He escapes the cannibals with the advantages of "a headstart and a light craft" which he has made himself (Chapter 5). And finally, he endures being stuck on the ocean for endless days under a cloudless, windless sky by facing death with defiance instead of fear.