Gary Paulsen

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Themes and Colors
Adversity and Growth Theme Icon
Independence vs. Connection Theme Icon
The Natural World Theme Icon
The Power of Language Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hatchet, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Adversity and Growth

At the start of the book, Hatchet’s protagonist, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, is a privileged city boy who is accustomed to the comforts of home and shocked at the unexpected changes brought about by his parents’ divorce. Brian initially views such adversity as a negative force that ruins the things he values. However, after a tragic plane crash that leaves him stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness, Brian finds himself facing much greater adversity…

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Independence vs. Connection

The opposing forces of personal independence and connection with the natural world play a key role in Brian’s journey. At the beginning of Hatchet, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is upset about his parents’ divorce but takes his immediate safety for granted, trusting the kind pilot to navigate to their destination in Northern Canada, where Brian is to spend the summer with his father. However, the pilot’s fatal heart attack creates a situation in which…

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The Natural World

After a terrifying plane crash that leaves thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson alone in the wilderness to fend for himself, he becomes acquainted with a rich, complex natural world that was previously foreign to him. Even after he is rescued at the end of the book, Brian’s interactions with that new world continue to shape him in profound ways. At first, the wilderness around Brian appears chaotic to him, just as his life in New York feels…

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The Power of Language

Although he is isolated from all human interaction during his time in the wilderness after a tragic plane crash, thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson frequently turns to language as a coping mechanism and survival tool. Brian’s ability to verbalize what he is going through is pivotal at many points throughout the story, and the words he chooses often define the way he proceeds in the face of challenge. By repeatedly emphasizing the importance of language in shaping…

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