There are several other literary devices that pop up at various times in the story. One of the most prevalent ones is foreshadowing which frequently presents clues of something that will happen later in the novel. Some examples of foreshadowing include:

1.) The fact that the information about Brian's mother is capitalized into the word Secret indicates how devastating this information is for him.

2.) The pilot teaching him how to control the plane prepares us for him landing the plane himself.

3.) The pilot's sudden concern with a pain in his shoulder and arm foreshadows his death of a heart attack.

4.) The fact that his mother gave him a hatchet as a going away gift prepares the reader for Brian's need for a basic tool to survive in the woods.

5.) His hatchet which bounces off the rock with a shower of sparks foreshadows how he will figure out how to make a fire.

6.) The slithering sound outside the shelter foreshadows Brian's discovery of the turtle eggs as another source of food.


Another element that is important to note is irony - when something happens, or is seen, or is heard that we may know, but the characters do not, or that appears opposite of what is expected. Some examples of irony include:

1.) It is ironic that Brian's mother gives him a hatchet as a gift before he leaves, because it is the tool that will mean survival for him.

2.) It is ironic that the tornado had somehow, when crossing the lake, changed the position of the plane and raised the tail. This gives Brian the opportunity to retrieve the survival pack.

3.) It is ironic that he drops the hatchet in the lake, because it is the one tool he cannot afford to lose.

4.) Brian finally finds the survival kit even though he has learned on his own how to survive.

5.) He finds a rifle which makes him unsettled, because its power and mastery seem to separate him from the wilderness that has become his home and he doesn't like the feeling.

6.) Just as he is savoring his new-found wealth that nearly killed him to recover, his ordeal ends with the arrival of a plane.

7.) Brian unwittingly turns on the Emergency Transmitter which brings the plane to rescue him.

8.) Brian has been rescued just before the winter comes on; he discovers in his research that he might not have survived that experience.


Another literary device used by the author is a motif. This device allows the author to run an important idea throughout the story by using images to create the thought for the reader. There are two motifs used in Hatchet:

1.) Bildungsroman which is a motif whereby a young boy grows, matures, and comes of age. The reader sees this in the following ways: he saves his own life when he escapes the submerged airplane; he comes to realize he is his won best asset; he learns to build a shelter and find food; he learns that giving into despair won't work; he learns to build a fire; two things - his body and his mind - have made a connection that he doesn't quite understand yet, but which he knows has occurred; he has changed, and he values different things; he learns from mistakes such as the skunk; he learns to kill meat like the foolbird; he learns patience by waiting until he has his strength back before he tries to get the survival pack from the plane; he retrieves the pack from the plane; and he becomes mature enough to know that revealing the Secret will only bring more pain to those he loves.

2.) The second motif concerns a deus ex machina or translated, a god by way of a machine. This refers to an author's technique of writing a rescue for his hero in a somewhat supernatural or unbelievable way. Brian has finally retrieved the survival pack and has created a way to survive for a long time, when, suddenly and unexpectedly, an airplane appears, and he is saved. It is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe's story The Pit and the Pendulum where the hero, who has been an object of torture, is about to fall into a pit to his death. Unexpectedly, the army arrives, and a hand reaches out and grabs him just as he is about to fall.

Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen Free BookNotes Summary

Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Hatchet". TheBestNotes.com.