About the Book

Book Protagonist: Brian Robeson
Publication Date: 1986
Genre: Action and Adventure, Coming of Age, Teen and Young Adult



By Gary Paulsen

‘Hatchet’ is an ageless piece of art. Is is a story of hope, perseverance and the determination to survive.

Gary Paulsen’s ‘Hatchet’ is an ocean of thoughtfulness. He taps into his wealth of experience to write this story, making it easy for everyone to relate in one way or another. Let’s avail ourselves of some remarkable quotes from this ageless book.


If you keep walking back from good luck, you’ll come to bad luck.

Brian Robeson’s thoughts. This presents good luck and bad luck as two sides of a coin. Brian at some point begins to count himself as blessed and with good luck. But, he stops to think—if his parents hadn’t divorced, he wouldn’t have been on that flight; if he wasn’t on that flight, the pilot wouldn’t have died, and the plane wouldn’t have crashed because he wouldn’t have been on a plane, visiting his father who is estranged from his mother. These are Brian’s thoughts. Perhaps, just perhaps, the good and the bad luck are just about equal, and it is the bad luck that makes the good luck look “good.” If there was no bad, everything would be good, right? I don’t know. I am just trying to follow the protagonist’s line of thought a bit (to get where he is coming from). He does have a point.


The most important rule of survival is: feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that—it didn’t work.

This was Brian on Page 82. This highlights the futility of self-pity. This was what Brian said to himself after the porcupine came in the dark and attacked him, and it is so true. Self-pity is a useless emotion. It is much better to get up, dust yourself up and try to fix things than to just sit and wallow in self-pity. Self-pity has never fixed anything.


Discoveries happened because they needed to happen.

This reminds us of the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Necessity is indeed the bedrock of creativity. To the one that would say ‘I don’t know if I can build that’ Well, just wait until you have no other option but to do so. Needing something is different from just wanting it. The things Brian did, he did because he had to do them to survive. The fittest survive. Brian built so many things, things that surprised him, things that toughened him. The Brian that crashed into that wilderness wasn’t the same Brian that left the wilderness. He discovered a lot alone, with no distraction that wasn’t natural. He needed to do the things he did; else he likely would not have survived.


He could do a day, but not forever—he could not make it if they did not come for him someday.

This was Brian’s thoughts not long after he had just crashed into the wilderness. At some point, it dawns on him that he may never be found. The search plane had come and gone, and he was very much alone. He now had to fend for himself without putting hope in his being rescued. The thought of this frightened him at that moment. He went on to survive anyway. Brian had to survive, and against all odds, he did.

Actions and Consequences

Small mistakes could turn into disasters, funny little mistakes could snowball so that while you were still smiling at the humour you could find yourself looking at death.

Brian Robeson made some mistakes that ended up costing him a lot. Out in the world, as long as the mistake wasn’t dire, the consequences would also likely not be dire. But where Brian was, and where it was possible he’d live out the rest of his life, small mistakes ended up not being small after all. He was trying to be friendly with the skunk, seeing it as the cute thing from TV, instead of seeing it exactly as what it is, a predator. In that wilderness, it is “eat or be eaten.” This mistake of Brian’s cost him not just his sight for two hours but much more than that, his food. Brian also made so many other mistakes that he learned from. He learned from his mistakes. That is the most important thing.

Eat or Be Eaten

In the forest, food was all. All things in the wood, from insects to fish to bears, were always, always looking for food—it was the great, single driving influence in nature.

I dare say, this also holds true outside the forest. No, not as savagely as in the forest, but applicable regardless. Whatever keeps one going is his or her food. Everyone needs food. In the forest, it is more pronounced. There, it is “eat or be eaten.” Everything Brian did, he did first for security and then for food.


…so much of all of living was patience and thinking.

Patience is tact. It is very important and goes hand in hand with thinking. Knowing when to sit back and think can be the difference between life and death. Brian learned to stop making rash decisions, decisions not thought through. He already made many mistakes that ended up costing him a lot. But he learned from them. In fact, he would go on to make more mistakes, but not as dire as the previous ones. Again, he usually learned from his mistakes, and we never see him making the same mistake twice. Once and he has learned his lessons.


Which is the most remarkable quote from ‘Hatchet?’

There are a few remarkable quotes from ‘Hatchet.’ But, this one tops them all:
“Small mistakes could turn into disasters, and funny little mistakes could snowball so that while you were still smiling at the humor you could find yourself looking at death.”
There in the forest where Brian finds himself, there are no small mistakes, and what would have been a small mistake with mild consequences in the world out there would likely be a life or death situation in the wilderness.

How thought-provoking is ‘Hatchet?’

The story of ‘Hatchet is very thought-provoking. It is a book centered around hope. A thirteen-year-old boy crash-lands into a desert with a hatchet and a strong will to live. He comes to realize a lot. He learns and unlearns. The reader learns and unlearns with him.

What is common amongst most of the quotes in ‘Hatchet?’

Hope. It can be everything. To wallow in self-pity is to waste time. He who has hope would want to survive. Most of the quotes from ‘Hatchet’ point to hope, how its absence can be detrimental, and how it can rejuvenate the life of the one who has it.

What is the first memorable quote from ‘Hatchet?’

The first memorable quote from ‘Hatchet’ is:
“If you keep walking back from good luck, you’ll come to bad luck.”
Most times, what makes good luck look good is bad luck. Brian stops to think about this when he is filled with gratitude for surviving. Don’t get it twisted; gratitude is very important; however, that doesn’t negate the fact that if Brian’s parents hadn’t divorced, he wouldn’t have been on that flight to Canada on his routine visit to his father, and, he certainly wouldn’t have been in the desert fighting for his life.

Chioma Julie
About Chioma Julie
Chioma is a graduate of Mass Communication. With an unwavering love for music, movies and books, sometimes, she also writes to unwind.
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