Hatchet

by

Gary Paulsen

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Hatchet Symbol Analysis

Hatchet Symbol Icon

Brian Robeson’s use of the hatchet throughout the novel symbolizes his developing ability to cope with adversity and find his place within the natural world. At first, the hatchet is just a useless and somewhat embarrassing gift from Brian’s mother. However, after the tragic plane crash that leaves him stranded in the woods, Brian takes careful stock of his assets and realizes how useful the hatchet can be, discovering a means of self-reliance that is crucial to his ability to survive and eventually thrive. As Brian finds more and more uses for the hatchet, he feels increasingly at home in the wilderness, again demonstrating the symbolic link between the hatchet and his own personal development. The hatchet even enables Brian to create fire, which gives him a new sense of mastery and connection within the natural world. When Brian drops the hatchet in the lake toward the end of the book, he is left to rely only on himself, a prospect that terrified him at the start of the book. However, Brian is able to overcome his fear and skillfully retrieve the hatchet from the bottom of the lake, at which point it symbolizes the profound growth that Brian has undergone during his time in the wilderness.

Hatchet Quotes in Hatchet

The Hatchet quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hatchet. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Hatchet published in 1987.
Chapter 9 Quotes

So much from a little spark.

A friend and a guard from a tiny spark.

He looked around and wished he had somebody to tell this thing, to show this thing he had done. But there was nobody. Nothing but the trees and the sun and the breeze and the lake.

Related Characters: Brian Robeson
Related Symbols: Hatchet
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

With his bow, with an arrow fashioned by his own hands he had done food, had found a way to live. The bow had given him this way and he exulted in it, in the bow, in the arrow, in the fish, in the hatchet, in the sky. He stood and walked from the water, still holding the fish and arrow and bow against the sky, seeing them as they fit his arms, as if they were part of him.

Related Characters: Brian Robeson
Related Symbols: Hatchet
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

A flip of some giant coin and he was the loser. But there is a difference now, he thought—there really is a difference. I might be hit but I’m not done. When the light comes I’ll start to rebuild. I still have the hatchet and that’s all I had in the first place.

Related Characters: Brian Robeson
Related Symbols: Hatchet
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

For all this time, all the living and fighting, the hatchet had been everything—he had always worn it. Without the hatchet he had nothing—no fire, no tools, no weapons—he was nothing. The hatchet was, had been him. And he had dropped it.

Related Characters: Brian Robeson
Related Symbols: Hatchet
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hatchet Symbol Timeline in Hatchet

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hatchet appears in Hatchet. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1 
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...Brian didn't answer, his mother presented him with a present for his trip, a new hatchet with a belt loop. He felt guilty for hurting his mother, so he attached the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
...finds only some change, a twenty-dollar bill, and a nail clipper. Then, he remembers the hatchet on his belt and adds that to his assets. He also inventories his clothes, shoes,... (full context)
Chapter 7
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...first time since the crash. Just in case other dangerous animals appear, he places his hatchet by his head when he goes to sleep. (full context)
Chapter 8
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...see in the dark, he hears a slithering sound inside his shelter and throws his hatchet toward the sound. The hatchet misses, sparking where it hits the rock wall, and Brian... (full context)
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...up in the morning light, again hungry and thirsty. While eating raspberries, he sees the hatchet lying where he threw it and picks it up. Then, as the light hits the... (full context)
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
Brian examines the wall where the hatchet hit and finds the harder, darker stone that caused the hatchet to spark. He quickly... (full context)
Chapter 9
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...has to be even thinner, so he painstakingly shreds it into tinier pieces using the hatchet. Eventually, he succeeds in getting a few of the sparks to smolder briefly in a... (full context)
Chapter 13
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
...despair he felt that day and the experience of trying to commit suicide using the hatchet. In his memory, he lies awake all night wishing for his suffering to end, but... (full context)
Chapter 17
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The next morning, the air is even colder. Bringing the hatchet with him, Brian goes out to his raft and slowly swims it over to the... (full context)
Chapter 18
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
...the plan turns out to be light and easy to break, so Brian uses the hatchet to cut away large pieces of the aluminum. Excited, Brian cuts more and more of... (full context)
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
Brian is horrified to see that the hatchet is gone, realizing that without it he has no means of making fire, tools, or... (full context)
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
...can. This time, he touches the bottom and opens his eyes to search for the hatchet. Brian does not see the hatchet until he is almost out of air, but then... (full context)
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
After recovering his breath, Brian returns to the raft and continues to use the hatchet to cut into the body of the plane. He makes a big enough hole to... (full context)