Hatchet Themes

The main themes in Hatchet are survival, nature, and family.

  • Survival: Brian Robeson must learn to live in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. His survival is contingent on his ability to understand and manipulate his surroundings.
  • Nature: In order to survive in the wilderness, Brian must accept himself as part of the ecosystem. In doing so, he develops a symbiotic relationship with nature, learning to live in the wild without destroying it.
  • Family: Brian's parents have recently gotten divorced, and his ambivalence about his family reflects the anger and confusion many children of divorce feel.


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In Paulsen’s novels, the relationship between humankind and nature is revealed as both symbiotic and challenging. Humans need nature in order to survive, and the need to overcome and tame it has been a mystical quest that all people experience to some degree at some time in their lives, although they may not be able to recognize or name those experiences. Paulsen delightfully describes this quest to overcome and understand the nature of human existence. Hatchet and Paulsen’s other vivid, captivating nature-oriented stories give readers an opportunity to commune with nature and revel in its splendor while appreciating its danger and reverence.

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Gary Paulsen has truly captured the adventurous spirit of many teenagers. Young readers and their teachers have come to enjoy, share, and recommend Paulsen’s books to peers who enjoy adventure stories. His tales of protagonists-versus-nature portray characters who battle the elements while gaining a sense of self. Guided and cajoled by the forces of nature, Paulsen’s characters develop and change in a quick, clear, and efficient manner. The readability levels of his works lie between the fourth and eighth grades, which makes these easy-to-read novels quite adaptable for either independent or school-oriented reading.

Hatchet is a classic...

(The entire section contains 374 words.)

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  • Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Teaching Guide
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Chapter Summaries