The story takes place in Hampton, New York, and the forests of Northern Canada, in the present day.


Major Characters

Brian Robeson
A thirteen year old boy who, on the way to spend the summer with his divorced father in Canada, is involved in a plane crash and must learn to survive in the Canadian woods.

The Pilot
An older man, perhaps named Jim or Jake (Brian can't remember), who flies the boy toward northern Canada until he has a heart attack and dies at the controls.

Brian's parents
His mother is the object of the Secret that obsesses Brian's thoughts. His father is a mechanical engineer who has designed a new drill bit for the oil drills on the tree line of Canada.



The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. In this story, the protagonist is Brian Robeson who is only a thirteen year old boy when life forces him to call upon all of his intelligence and innate skills to find a way to survive when his plane crashes in the Canadian woods. He is deeply hurt by a Secret that he knows about his mother and how that Secret led to his parents' divorce. Over the days that he spends in the woods of Canada, he must put the Secret aside and learn to be a man.


The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all. In this story, the antagonist is Nature and all its dangers as well as its beauties. Brian must learn to live within the boundaries that Nature forces upon him and accept his fate. Another antagonist is Brian himself as he battles against his tendency to just give up when this new life seems too difficult. He also must end his obsession with the Secret and the divorce and learn to live with what he cannot change.


The climax of a story is the major turning point that determines the outcome of the plot. The climax of this story occurs when Brian finally finds a way into the tail of the plane after a tornado dislodges it from the bottom of the lake. Within it are the treasures he believes he will need to continue his life in the woods of Canada.


Also known as the resolution or denouement, this is the place in the plot where the action is resolved or clarified. After Brian obtains the treasure from the tail of the crashed plane, he finds an emergency transmitter which he accidentally turns on. He doesn't realize he's done so, because there is so perceivable change in it, and he disregards it while he takes pleasure from all the other supplies he finds in the pack. Just then, he hears the sound of another plane which lands on the lake. The pilot had picked up the signal from the emergency transmitter and now has come to rescue him at last. This is followed by an Epilogue which explains all the Brian learned from his survival experience and how, even though his parents do not reconcile, he can keep the Secret just that, a secret, so no one else will be hurt by it.


Brian Robeson, a thirteen year old boy traveling in a small airplane to Canada to spend the summer with his father, is involved in a plane crash in an uninhabited part of the Canadian woods after the pilot dies of a heart attack. Brian then must find a way to survive and in the process, discovers much about himself and becomes a man. The motif within this story is a bildungsroman, or a young boy's coming of age.


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Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Free BookNotes Summary

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