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by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet Theme of Family

While on the one hand family can be a source of great comfort and strength (not to mention terrific birthday presents), it also causes all kinds of pain and sadness when family members don't live up to your expectations, or when things fall apart. That's exactly what happens in Hatchet. Brian alternates between comforting memories of his family in the past and unhappy realizations of the faults and shortcomings of his parents. He may be out there in the wilderness at home, but his parents are always present in his memories, and that both drives him and challenges his need for survival.

Questions About Family

  1. Hatchet is basically a wilderness survival story, with a little family drama tossed in the background for some flavor. Do you feel that the family plot adds to the book? Takes away from it? Is it out of place, or does it feel right at home?
  2. Brian is (understandably) upset about his parents' divorce. But do you think there's something else going on, too? How does "the Secret" affect his understanding of his parents, and his relationship to them?
  3. At the end of the book we learn that Brian is never able to tell his father about the secret. Why do you think that is? Has something changed in the wilderness, or was he never going to spill the beans? 
  4. Can we really tell what actually caused the divorce, or who is to blame? Can we completely trust Brian's understanding of what happened? Does it matter?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Brian seems to be angry with his mother for demanding the divorce, but he's really ticked off at himself. He thinks he shares his mother's guilt because he knows her secret and won't tell his dad.

Being away from his family is actually a good thing for Brian, as it allows him to come to terms with the divorce and lets him see for the first time who he is outside of the family he grew up in.

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