by Gary Paulsen
Hatchet Theme of Perseverance
In Hatchet, Brian's ability to keep going even when times are tough is really put to the test. Throughout the book, hope is often the only thing that keeps Brian moving forward. In the early part of the book, of course, Brian is hoping and expecting to be rescued at any time, and his main focus is on keeping himself alive until that happens; so keepin' on keepin' on seems pretty natural. But once the rescue plane passes him by and he's forced to give up that hope, Brian hits rock bottom. When he finally breaks out of his depression, we see a new Brian—one who is far more self-reliant, and full of what he calls "tough hope"—the ability to persevere, and to continue to plan for the future no matter what.
Questions About Perseverance
- How important to Brian's survival is his ability to persevere? Do you think he would have made it if he'd given up on things more easily?
- What's the relationship in the book between hope and perseverance? Does hope inspire perseverance? Does perseverance give rise to hope?
- Where do you think Brian's "tough hope" comes from? Do you think he'll still have tough hope after he's rescued?
- Have you ever made something completely from scratch, like Brian with his fish spear or his bow and arrow? How did it make you feel? Did what you made seem more valuable to you than it might have if someone else had made it?
Chew on This
The only thing more important than the hatchet to Brian's survival is his ability to persevere.
Brian isn't very good at persevering in the early part of the book—he's really just doing his best to survive until he's rescued. Only after he's given up hope of being rescued does he really start to develop perseverance.