Hatchet Characters
by Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet Characters

The main character in Hatchet is Brian Robeson. Brian is the only active character for the majority of the novel.

  • Brian Robeson is the protagonist of Hatchet. His parents have recently divorced, and Brian struggles to manage his anger and frustration. These feelings are exacerbated by the fact that Brian has been concealing his mother's extramarital affair. Over the course of the novel, Brian evolves from a young, almost helpless teenager into a capable and resourceful young man. His time in the wilderness irreparably changes him, and he emerges a stronger person with a deeper connection to nature.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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Brian is the only active character in the story. Two pilots appear briefly (one whose death strands Brian and one who rescues him) at the beginning and end of the novel. Brian's parents are mentioned frequently but are present only when their son remembers them.

Brian is a typical adolescent at the start of the novel. He is unremarkable physically and intellectually. What he knows of life comes from attending school, playing with friends, watching television, going to the movies, reading magazines, and listening to his parents. He is also typical because his parents, like a large number of married couples in the 1980s and 1990s, are divorced. The one untypical thing about him is his possession of the Secret, the awareness of his mother's lover. Brian saw them kiss in a car parked at the mall.

Yet Brian proves surprisingly resilient in the wilderness. Having to bear the Secret has made him unexpectedly self-reliant. From books, television shows, and games, he recalls tidbits of information about finding food, building shelter, or understanding animal behavior. They are his reference volumes for dealing with the present and the unexpected. He reinvents ways to accomplish the most routine, unconscious tasks such as telling time and marking days. From parents and teachers he remembers advice and motivational slogans: "You are the best asset you have." Although Brian's predicament seems overwhelming—he is alone, without any supplies except a hatchet, lost where rescuers will not think to look, and inexperienced at outdoor life—Brian has one advantage. He can observe and learn.

Learning by experience is not easy, but it is the way Nature teaches. It occasionally means suffering, as when Brian gets sick after eating too many...

(The entire section is 490 words.)