There are numerous similarities between the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and literature for today’s young adults by Donelson and Nilsen. The novel just like in the young adult literature contains not only elements that would interest youthful readers but also aspects that relate to adolescent life. Young Adult Literature focuses on a number of themes such as: sexuality, suicide, identity and science fiction. Most of these themes are captured in the novel which therefore makes the Hatchet a perfect example of young adult fiction specifically published for the adolescent or teenagers.
The power/magic in positive thinking is one of the themes explored in the text.Brian goes through a myriad of challenges akin to what adolescent usually experience at this critical stage of life. However, Brian faces these challenges with a lot of gusto. Initially, these setbacks disssilusioned him and he became a frustrated young boy. He was so myopic thinking about home all the time instead of focusing on the future. Suddenly he discovers the magic in positive thinking. At this point Brian recalls the words of wisdom from his former English teacher who relentlessly encouraged students to think positively. He always said, “You are all you have.” These pieces of information help to propel Brian in his life. However, he does not fully realize the power/magic in positive thinking until he is forced by circumstances. This movement from fictitious stories to relating them with the reality is expounded on by Donelson and Nilsen in chapter four of their book. This is a characteristic of Young Adult Literature since teenagers are faced with a number of challenges such as being too emotional and can only be overcome by positive thinking.
Mysteries and adventures is yet another area that has been captured in the text that was also part of Donelson and Nilsen work in chapter six. Brian learns how to drive an earoplane at his tender age of thirteen. The only thing he cannot do is to land safely. Again, how Brian survives in the wilderness and is finally rescued is mysterious. Although he is harmed by the animals, he never sustains any serious injury and survives.
The challenges of adulthood are also presented in this text. Brian comes to realize that to be successful in adult one ought to be patient and optimistic in life. At the commencement of the text, Brian is part of a family who undoubtedly care for him, thus the separation inflicts some pain in him. This is similar to what happens to most youths who are about to become parents or adults. There are so many responsibilities and challenges that one has to undergo that is not any different from what Ben went through. This scenario for example, is similar to the physical pain initiates to go through to become adults. In the contemporary society, it could represent the economic difficulty associated with the responsibility of taking care of a family.
When a porcupine drives several quills in his leg, Brian cries in agony and hopelessness. However, this does not last as he makes a resolution to remain strong. Here, Perseverance as characteristic of Young Adult Literature has been captured. He says:”later he looked back on this time of crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work. It wasn’t just that it was wrong to do, or that it was considered incorrect. It was more than that—it didn’t work.”Brian goes through several challenges, he is not only attacked by a moose but he is also injured by a tornado the tornado also destroyed his house at one time he contemplates committing suicide. However, he resolves within himself that it is not necessary. In fact in the aftermath, he gives life challenges a more positive approach.
The novel captures the aspect of race since Brian’s mother and Father comes from different countries. In fact it’s these differences in race that triggered their separation that has finally landed Brian into problems. He loves both parents and would want to see all of them. In fact the mother gets married to another man who is of a similar race. Brian describes emotionally how this man who is not his real father kisses his mother.
The novel seams to have a lot of gender stereotyping. It seams to have been published for male teenagers only. It gives very little significance to the women/girls. This emphasizes the nature of this society, I.e. male dominated. The major character-Ben is a boy and he is given prominence in the text. He goes through numerous challenges that is assumed not to be a problem to the females.
Similarly, there is negative portrayal of women. Brian’s mother is portrayed as amorous. Although, they are separated with the husband she openly kisses her new man.
Donelson, K. & Nilsen, A. Literature for Young Adults. New York: Longman.2005 print
Gary, P. Hatchet. London: Oxford University Press.1999 print