Role of Hope and Perseverance in the Survival in the Novel 'Hatchet'
Survival. Humans have a weird way of them to persevere and overcome seemingly impossible opposition. Some may associate this with Charles Darwin’s theory “survival of the fittest.” Some may also associate this with the psychological term “the fight or flight response.” However, survival solely depends on a perfectly mixed amount of hope, drive, optimism, and overall perseverance to overcome and thrive. Hope can supply fuel to the body and push it through strenuous and somewhat “hopeless” tasks. Some people have battles with their own minds that prohibit them from living out dreams, for example. “I cannot play basketball, because I am too short and it’s pointless for me to try.” The human mind constantly determines what you’re capable of doing and what you’re not capable of doing, but if that blockage is overcome, personal limits and boundaries that once seemed pointless to try will be no more. With the right amount of hope and perseverance, anything can become a reality. Gary Paulsen, author of the award-winning novel “Hatchet” highlights and defines many of the key terms discussed above. He uses his main character, Brian, to showcase first hand for the readers what perseverance and hope looks like, Paulsen sends a strong message to never give up and to always push beyond those boundaries the mind has set.
Brian’s hope at the beginning of the novel was that of a rock, unbreakable and ultimately kept him alive. According to ‘Hatchet Theme of Perseverance’ The constant thought of being rescued was in Brian’s mind at all times. It gave Brian the strength and stamina to keep striving and pushing to stay alive till rescue. (Shmoop) All of this was because of a thought, Paulsen brilliantly shows that the simplest of thoughts can even keep you alive in a hopeless environment. Brian’s first days of being stranded in the northern Canadian wilderness were rough and tested his ability to survive without any prior knowledge of survival or immense isolation. Brian learned and adapted to his surroundings, he thought his decisions through carefully; when to use energy, when to rest, when to hunt, when to eat. Isolated and alone, Brian faced all odds; harsh environment, dangerous wildlife, limited resources, and loneliness. Brian had made a small life for himself once he was stranded, he had shelter and warmth, and this kept Brian physically healthy, but what about Brian’s mental health? Every day that Brian was exposed to isolation and loneliness his mental health and hope deteriorated and smoldered, making it harder and harder for Brian to keep that optimism in his mind. According to ‘Hatchet Theme of Perseverance’ once the rescue plane passes him by and he’s forced to give up that hope, Brian hits rock bottom. (Shmoop) This quote illustrates how quickly you can lose hope, and sometimes it can be hard to get that hope back.
Brian losing his hope in rescue brought out the other key term mentioned earlier, perseverance. After the hope of rescue was long gone, Brian realized that instead of being a short-term stay in the Canadian wilderness, it would a long-fought battle to survive and endure against its many dangers. According to “Brian Robeson Timeline and Summary” Brian was extremely depressed, after his chance of rescue slipped out of his fingertips, to the point he even tried to kill himself. Paulsen illustrates how easy it is to fall into despair, hope can be there one moment and gone the next, once you lose hope, that downward spiral of depression is much more common and can easily befall you. (Shmoop) This quote is straight from the book and demonstrates how vivid Paulsen uses his words to describe Brian’s feelings after not being rescued. “Hatchet” He had settled into the gray funk deeper and still deeper until finally, in the dark, he had gone up on the ridge and taken the hatchet and tried to end it by cutting himself. Madness. A hissing madness that took his brain. (Paulsen 93) The book even quoted that Brian was “wishing for death, wishing for an end, and slept only didn’t sleep.” Brian was truly broken over the feeling of failure, the feeling of a missed opportunity, the feeling of hopelessness, and despair began to take over, yet Brian was not ready to quit.
Brian soon broke out of his depressive rage and according to “Hatchet Theme of Perseverance” developed something called “tough-hope” a state of mind where if he couldn’t be rescued he would survive for himself and have confidence in his own abilities, he was going to survive for his family no matter what happened. (Shmoop) This is where “survival of the fittest” really came into effect, Brian was a small fish in a large pond. Brian swore to himself that we weren’t going to act weak and give up because a chance of rescue was missed. Brian’s perseverance after this was severely put to the test, a tornado touched down in the same wilderness that Brian was stuck in. This tornado was a blessing in surprise and ultimately led to Brian being able to uncover a survival pack in the plane that he crash-landed in. Paulsen illustrates once again how easy it is to gain and lose hope, Brian thought he had missed his chance of rescue and decided to just do his best to survive, but inside that fateful survival pack, Brian found an emergency transmitter. Brian at first thought the transmitter was broken, with a few flicks of the switch and no response Brian faced his disappointment head-on and didn’t let it take control of him like before. However, soon enough the sound of a plane is heard by Brian, and the rescue he desperately wanted, that he worked so hard for, that he persevered and strived for was finally his. He came out victorious.
The fight or flight response was used in Brian’s everyday life in the wilderness, he made his tough decisions based on retreating to fight another day, or to persevere and keep going for a reward that would help Brian’s survival. Gary Paulsen, using his advanced literary skills to describe Brian’s thoughts and feelings at all times is brilliant. Paulsen showed that hope can be obtainable by anyone and everyone if you look in the right place and apply the right amount of energy, he uses Brian’s hatchet as the first symbol inside of the novel. If Brian didn’t have his hatchet there would have been a slim chance of survival, he made tools with his hatchet, he made his first fire with his hatchet, chopped wood, and constructed a shelter all by means of his trusty hatchet. Yet at the same time, Brian’s source of hope was used to nearly kill himself later in the novel, losing all that hope and sense of achievement he once had. So naturally, Brian’s hatchet was a symbol of hope to him, an everyday reminder of what he had accomplished, how much he could do with just one tool. Yet at the same time, Brian looked at his hatchet as a burden, as something that he simply couldn’t carry anymore later in the novel, that his chance of survival was over, that the thought of rescue was his only motivation. However, it was not, Brian was undergoing a type of Placebo effect, that all in his mind was the thought of rescue that kept him alive but it was really himself and his hard work. Brian had to go through that depression phase to overall improve himself and strengthen the confidence in himself and his abilities to overcome the elements and that even if rescue wasn’t there, he would carry on. Everything that Brian went through is a prime example of having brain and brawn to survive, that you had to be physically and mentally strong to succeed in such an environment like the Canadian wilderness. Survival of the fittest doesn’t mean physically fit, but that perfect combination of both mental and physical strength.
Hope and perseverance played a massive role in the survival of Brian. Paulsen’s intentions of making the reader perceive Brian as a role model and someone who could conquer the forest directly reflects the feelings of the real world reader, that whoever reading this could relate and use Brian as a motivator. Some would even say, “If Brian can survive the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a hatchet and a strong mental drive, then I can achieve my goals and overcome the opposition that’s in the pathway to my achievements.” Paulsen’s message of stay strong and breaking those mental barriers that hold us down can be clearly seen in the actions by Brian and can directly and positively affect his reader’s minds, and help them with their everyday lives.
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