by Gary Paulsen
Hatchet Theme of Man and the Natural World
It's hard—actually, impossible—to ignore the natural world in Hatchet. When a skunk sprays you in the face, can you ignore that?
From the moment the plane crashes into the lake, Brian becomes totally dependent on the natural world around him and on his ability to understand it and get what he needs from it. On the one hand, of course, this is a terrifying position to be in. Not only is Brian totally lost in an environment he's not equipped to deal with, but he soon learns that nature can be dangerously unpredictable—a place where a simple mistake can have dire, even fatal, consequences. There's no reset button in the woods. On the other hand, because of his absolute immersion in the wilderness, Brian ultimately discovers that the world is a far richer, more meaningful place than he had previously known. Life lesson officially learned.
Questions About Man and the Natural World
- When the story opens, do you think Brian is a typical modern kid in terms of his attitude toward, and knowledge of, nature? Or is his understanding of nature unusual in any way?
- Why does Brian react to the bear the way he does? Do you think his reaction suggests anything about his understanding of the relationship between nature and man? How is his reaction to the wolf, later in the book, different? What does that difference suggest?
- Toward the end of the book, when Brian finds a rifle inside the plane's survival pack, he thinks that just holding the rifle "changed him" (19.8). How do you think the rifle changes him? Does he gain anything from adding the rifle to his survival tools? Does he lose anything?
- Do you think nature is presented as something good (that's on Brian's side), or as something bad (that's working against him)? Or something in between? How do you think Brian would answer that question? Would his answer be different at different points in the book?
Chew on This
In Hatchet, nature is presented as a powerful, destructive force that doesn't care who gets hurt as it goes about its business. Brian has to conquer nature in order to survive.
In Hatchet, nature is presented as a spiritual force. Brian, like the wolf and the bear, is part of nature, which he slowly comes to understand and appreciate.