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
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.
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.
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.
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.