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Brian Robeson, his parents only recently divorced, he is on a plane on his way to see his dad for the summer,and all he can think about is the pain and loss of his parents separating. Brian is already going through a rollercoaster of emotions, when bam, disaster strikes. He notices his pilot has had a heart attack and has to take control of the plane. Brian goes for as long as he can but eventually runs out of fuel and has to crash land in a forest near a remote lake.
With his most valuable tool being a hatchet his mother gave him before he left, Brian has to survive in the brutal Canadian wilderness. The story goes through Brian at first struggling to make it, but adapts to and overcomes the wilderness. He first finds sustenance in berrys and eggs but soon needs to learn how to cook and hunt because he knows, the berrys and eggs will not last him.
He uses the hatchet to make fire and starts to see the world differently, sees through all the comfort of modern day. Later it shows him being very successful being able to hunt birds and fish using his newfound knowledge from being in the forest so long.He starts to become a new person. He faces many different conflicts including facing the pain of isolation, and nature ravenging his camp. However he comes through these conflicts and gets out of the forest a new person. One can see that Brain is both reflective and patient and these traits help reveal the “coming of age” theme of this story, that with challenges, and overcoming those challenges, it can really change someone.
The first challenge Brian encounters is obviously the fear and isolation he has to deal with in the forest. He, like any of us would be, is at first terrified all by himself in the forest, keep in mind, Brian is only 13 years old and he has to face, none the less survive, the wilderness of Canada. Throughout his endeavors, Brian realizes how he is changing, he is becoming more aware. This can be shown in the text with an example of when Brian realizes a new him is emerging. “None of that used to be in Brian and now it was a part of him, a changed part of him, a grown part of him, and the two things, his mind and his body, had come together as well, had made a connection with each other that he didn't quite understand.” (Paulsen, 100). This discovery shows how Brian can be reflective and sees how his circumstances can change him. He doesn't just go through life,he notices what goes on, and acts on it.
The next unlucky encounter Brian faces is with a very scary force in nature, well, nature. It is very unpredictable and in this case, did not affect Brian too well. In a span of one day Brain was attacked by a moose and his camp was ravaged by a tornado. This of course was a very lasting blow because it destroyed just about everything he had built up. This however, is a new Brian, a determined, confident, brave Brain. One who has had to overcome many obstacles, which has changed him tremendously. Brain doesn't freak out about his sudden misfortune, but rather just starts again. “But there is a difference now, he thought—there really is a difference. I might be hit but I'm not done. When the light comes I'll start to rebuild. I still have the hatchet and that's all I had in the first place.” (Paulsen, 146). He knows what he started with, a hatchet, and knows where he got with that hatchet, and he knows he can get back there with the hatchet. Through this mindset, we can see that Brain is patient and now knows that he has to work for whathehas and accepts that.
These conflicts and revealed character traits all come together and unfold the overall theme of Hatchet, that everyone faces challenges, and if one overcomes those challenges, it can really change oneself. As Brain has to face isolation and fear, and the big obstacle in which his camp wa destroyed, he matured and changed. At first, Brain is scared and confused of and about his situation. He has to learn how to deal with fear, isolation, and even disappointment. As he spends more time in the forest, he becomes more mature and patient. He learns how to improvise, adapt and overcome his predicament.
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