by Gary Paulsen
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Limited Omniscient)
The story of Hatchet is Brian's story, plain and simple.
The third person narrator who tells the story has access to Brian's deepest thoughts and feelings, but not to anyone else's. That means we don't know anything about Brian's parents' divorce beyond what Brian himself knows about it, and we know nothing about how his parents feel or what they do when they learn that his plane is missing. (Which, by the way, would make a great Lifetime Original movie.)
But we're not complaining. We get to know Brian really well because of this limited perspective, and every little detail counts:
It had always been so simple at home. He would go to the store and get a chicken and it was all cleaned and neat, no feathers or insides, and his mother would bake it in the oven and he would eat it. His mother from the old time, from the time before, would bake it. (15.22)
Paulsen packs a punch with memories like this—giving us a glimpse of what Brian's life was like before the crash, and contrasting it to his life in the woods.
This limited focus on our one main squeeze helps us sympathize with Brian through all his sufferings and disappointments. We're right there next to Brian, and we can't help feeling all buddy-buddy with him. It also helps us to better understand how frightening and bewildering Brian's experiences are, and increases the tension in the story. When he finds berries in the woods, we don't know any more than Brian whether they're fit to eat; we're equally baffled by the senselessness of the moose attack; and we're just as surprised as Brian is when the rescue plane shows up at the end of the story.
One quick question we have to throw your way: if the story is told entirely from Brian's point of view, how come he's not the one actually telling us the story? Why does Paulsen choose to give us the events through a third-person narrator instead?
Is there something we get from a third-person narrator that we couldn't get from Brian? Would Brian for some reason not be able to tell us how he feels at certain points in the story? Is Brian just too busy throwing up and screaming to tell us the story himself? Those are some of Shmoop's ideas. Now it's your turn—take it away.