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When Brian leaves for Canada, his mother gives him a hatchet to use during his summer in the Canadian woods with his father. Attached to his belt during the plane crash, it serves as the sole tool in his possession. He depends upon it to make all his hunting tools and to start a fire. Most importantly, he uses it to gain access to the survival pack, which makes his rescue possible. The hatchet symbolizes the only constant element in Brian's entire adventure. Brian's multiple uses of the hatchet attest to his resourcefulness.
The plane has a complex and contradictory symbolic role, in that it represents an ending and a beginning, and contains both death and life. The plane crash at the beginning of the book seems as if it should be an ending to a series of events, when it actually serves as a prelude to Brian's real adventure. The pilot meets his death in the plane when he has a heart attack, and his body remains underwater in the plane, strapped into the seat. However, Brian's eventual rescue only becomes possible because he finds the survival pack in the plane. The transmitter inside the survival pack enables Brian to send a signal to the rescuers.
Brian finds a rifle in the plane's survival pack; surprised by its presence, Brian rejects the gun and puts it aside. To Brian it represents the unwelcome intrusion of civilization and technology on his wilderness world. While the rifle provides efficiency and convenience, it does not represent the self- sufficiency Brian has come to appreciate. The rifle separates Brian from his way of life and from the other creatures of the wilderness.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Hatchet!