What role do patience and observation play in Brian's survival? How do Brian's powers of patience and observation change in the course of the book?
When Brian first arrives in the woods after the plane crash, the setbacks he experiences frustrate him to no end. He cries, he despairs, and he gives in to self-pity and hopelessness. However, he soon learns what he considers the most important rule of survival. That is, self-pity, rather than accomplishing anything, only wastes time and energy that could be spent working to improve the situation. Recalling his old English teacher Mr. Perpich and his insistence that his students adopt a positive attitude toward challenges and toward life in general, Brian motivates himself to action. Although he later experiences relapses of hopelessness, the most serious of which occurs after the plane flies overhead and he attempts to commit suicide, after the initial purging of self- pity Brian becomes able to reaffirm his optimism. He learns to be patient in his various painstaking hunting and building endeavors, and to think before acting. He also learns to use his senses in a new way to keep himself from avoidable harm, fine-tuning his eyes and ears to pick up on the natural elements around him.
In describing Brian's activities in the wilderness, Gary Paulsen repeatedly uses the phrase "There were these things to do." Why does he use this phrase and how does it reflect Brian's frame of mind?
Once Brian overcomes his initial negativity, he works virtually non-stop to improve his life in the woods. He learns that he must think about the future if he is to survive; he must build a substantial shelter and a food shelf, and find ways not only to hunt but also to store food for the long term. His constantly occupied state not only increases the chances that he will survive, it also saves him from the depression and self-pity that had earlier plagued him. Paulsen uses the repetition of this phrase to emphasize Brian's new attitude and active determination in this part of the book.
When Brian finds the rifle in the survival pack, how does it make him feel?
Brian finds the presence of the survival rifle surprising and jarring; it seems out of place in the natural environment. Although his daily life in the wilderness presents complications and challenges he had not even considered before living there, he finds that self-sufficiency has a certain appeal and nobility. The endeavors at which he does succeed become all the more rewarding as a result of his self-sufficiency. The rifle negates this self-sufficiency by introducing technology. The rifle also represents an intrusion of technology onto nature. While Brian had used simple tools such as a bow and arrow and a fish spear to survive in the woods, the rifle was a far more sophisticated piece of weaponry. Indeed, the rifle had the potential to make his hunting faster and easier, but this efficiency did not appeal to Brian. The rifle would have separated him from the wilderness and the animals in it by altering their relationship.
Why did Gary Paulsen title this novel Hatchet?
How are Brian's physical and mental states linked? Is the relationship between mind and body stronger in the beginning or the end of the novel? What accounts for this shift?
What do you think would have happened if Brian had found the survival pack much earlier? Would he be the same person he became under the book's circumstances?
The past is constantly plaguing Brian throughout the book, through his daydreaming, his sleeping dreams, and his flashbacks. How does Gary Paulsen incorporate the past into the present?
What are the most important lessons Brian learns about the natural world? How does his time in the wilderness affect his attitude toward the land and the animals?
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