Guide and Summary for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Questions to Explore the Novel

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Here is a short summary on Hatchet by Gary Paulsen before discussing any Hatchet questions:

Brian Robeson, 13 years old, is flying through Canada from New York to visit his dad. His parents are recently divorced, and he is angry at his mom because he feels she caused the divorce. Brian doesn’t want to tell anyone that he knows “The Secret” of his mom and another man. While on the plane, the pilot has a heart attack, and the plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. Brian is alone with a hatchet that his mother gave him. He is exhausted and hungry and can’t stop thinking about “The Secret.” He builds himself a shelter, eats berries, and goes to sleep. After Brian is attacked by a porcupine and has some dreams, he realizes how to make fire using his hatchet. He also realizes self-pity will not help him survive, and he starts remembering people back home who bring him hope and inspiration. Brian learns to hunt and survives a tornado and a moose attack. He refers to himself as the new Brian and his attitude remains positive, his spirit unbreakable. Brian eventually revisits the plane and retrieves the survival pack. In it is a transmitter which he turns on, and a pilot finds him and rescues him. Brian never does tell his father about “The Secret.”


Once you are able to understand or even write your own summary on Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, you can answer some Hatchet questions to help you comprehend the themes and characters better.

Hatchet questions:

1. Why is Brian so lost in thought during the plane ride? Why doesn’t he seem very excited?

2. When the pilot has a heart attack and Brian is in control of the plane himself, what is his plan? Do you think this was a good plan? Why or why not?

3. What are the essential things that someone needs to survive in the wilderness? Does Brian have these things? How long does it take him to figure out what he needs?

4. For a while, Brian feels depressed. Provide three specific places where Brian is drowning in despair in the novel.

5. What happens to lift Brian’s spirits? Why does he turn into the new Brian?

6. List three things that happen to Brian that might have made the old Brian give up, but the new Brian just keeps on being “tough.”

7. How does Brian get rescued?

8. Brian changes throughout the novel–physcially and mentally. Find two quotes toward the end of the novel that prove he is thinking differently about life.

9. Do you think Brian makes the right choice by not telling his dad about “The Secret?” Would you have told? Why or why not?

Use these Hatchet questions as a guide while you read the novel and explore the themes and character of Brian.

This post is part of the series: Studying Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a captivating novel about a boy’s survival in the wilderness while he deals with his parents' divorce. This series will help you better understand the novel and give you practice with reading skills at home.

  1. Understanding Novels: Free Activities For the Novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  2. Hatchet Quotes and Explanations
  3. Questions and Summary for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  4. Hatchet Review for Theme and Author’s Purpose