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’ by Gary Paulsen is a coming-of-age story about a thirteen-year-old old boy who, against all odds tries to survive the harshness of the wilderness, after he crash-lands in it.

Gary Paulsen’s ‘Hatchet’ tells the story of Brian, a thirteen-year-old old boy, still trying to come to terms with his parent’s divorce, now faced with a new challenge of fighting for his life in a wilderness in Canada. Time passes through Brian and twitches a lot in him. He learns and unlearns.


Some events in the ‘Hatchet’ are very funny. Brian’s crashing into the desert is sad, but humor helps ease things. For instance, when he comes out to find out what it was that made noise in the night, Brian first says the animal was probably there to play. He laughs hysterically at himself for insinuating that. Then he says the animal must have been there for something important. That was when he dug into the earth and found the turtle eggs.

Also, we see Brian battered from the attack by the moose. That same night, the tornado hits. Bruised that night, he escaped death by a whisker. For something that serious, Brian’s reaction was hilarious. He had only one wish- that the tornado killed the moose.

Even though the story of ‘Hatchet is filled with many serious encounters by the main character, Brian Robeson, it still has humor infused. The importance of humor in a story like this, cannot be overemphasized.

Language and Structure

The story is told through the third-person point of view. Unlike some of Gary Paulsen’s works, there are no illustrations. The language used is pretty simple. The book is divided into chapters, comprising 19 chapters. This book—dedicated by the author to the students of Hershey Middle School—has 195 pages, including about three pages of epilogue. The diction is easy to understand, and there’s no use of superfluous vocabulary. The sentence structure is also simple. What Gary Paulsen did with ‘Hatchet’—in terms of language and structure—is commendable, because simplicity is key.

Clarity of the Events in Hatchet

Gary Paulsen’s use of adjectives is worth applauding. His use of imagery is also top-notch. Following Gary Paulsen’s words, we get to imagine and know how the berries feel and look; how the different fishes look; the extent of the mosquitoes’ callousness on Brian’s body; how the birds look; how the turtle eggs feel, and how the foolbird tastes. It is simply amazing, Gary Paulsen’s ability to put the reader right there with the protagonist, following the narrator’s eyes of the gods.


There aren’t many characters in ‘Hatchet.’ But the ones we have are just about enough. The few characters described enough or given enough time to develop personalities were well-developed: Brian Robeson, his mum (whom we do not see much of, but hear much about), and the pilot. Brian’s friend, Terry, is mentioned, but not enough to assign him a whole personality.

Lessons From Hatchet

Hatchet’ is an amazing story. We follow Brian—how he changes from the Brian that couldn’t handle his bicycle well to the Brian that built things to survive; how he learned patience, sensitivity, thoughtfulness, and gratitude as virtues. ‘Hatchet’ is filled to the brim with lessons. Although the reader may not have felt things exactly how Brian did, the reader, through Gary Paulsen’s good use of adjectives and imagery, would feel enough to change for the better alongside Brian Robeson, the protagonist.

Rounding Off

Gary Paulsen concludes the story with an epilogue. We see how Brian now lives outside in the world, how much his experience in the wilderness has changed him, how he still dreams of the wilderness, and how he still hoped for his parents to reconnect, but that hope was dashed quickly. ‘Hatchet’ is a rollercoaster of emotions. It is a story about hope and survival.

‘Hatchet’: Review
  • Story
  • Writing style
  • Setting
  • Dialogue
  • Lasting effect on the reader
  • Conclusion

Gary Paulsen's Timeless Novel ‘Hatchet’: Review

Brian Robeson, a thirteen-year-old boy still trying to deal with his parents’ divorce, is hit with another challenge when he crash-lands into the wilderness. There, he has only his hatchet and the will to survive.


  • The simple structure adopted is a plus.
  • The good use of adjectives.
  • The humor infused is also a plus.


  • Most of the characters were not allowed to fully develop.
  • Illustrations would have improved the reader’s experience significantly, especially as it is a children’s book.
  • Too many em dashes.
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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