The hatchet is the object that gives the novel its title, so it is the most important symbol in the text. For Brian, the hatchet symbolizes many things. It symbolizes hope, because he can use it to keep himself alive until he is rescued. Since it came from his mother, it is representative of the family he has left behind. The hatchet is also the only constant in his entire adventure: as things in the forest keep changing quickly, the hatchet is the one thing he has by his side the whole time.
The Plane (Symbol)
The crashed plane's role as a symbol is more difficult to discern than that of the hatchet, but it is still an important focal point in the story. In many ways, the plane represents death: it crashed and brought Brian to what could eventually be his death, and it contains the body of the dead pilot. But in other ways, the plane gives Brian life, because he is able to find the survival kit inside of it.
The Rifle (Symbol)
At the end of the novel, Brian pulls a rifle out of the survival pack that he has retrieved from the plane. This rifle is a symbol of the destructive, manmade, artificial world outside of the forest, representative of the intrusive way that humans often push themselves onto nature rather than try to understand the flow of it. Brian does not like the feeling that this gun gives him, so he chooses to put it aside.
Dreams feature as a prominent motif in this novel. Following the crash, Brian spends a lot of time unconscious or asleep, attempting to recover. As such, he dreams often, and these dreams usually serve a distinct purpose. Sometimes, he dreams of his mother's affair: the secret that has taunted him for so long. Other times, though, he dreams about things that help him to survive, notably the dream about his father and Terry showing him how to make a fire.
The various animals that Brian encounters in the forest are important symbols of nature, and their peaceful acceptance of Brian's presence is a mark of his integration with the natural world. Early in the novel the bear eats berries alongside of Brian, and then later in the novel Brian and a pack of wolves exchange a nod of respect.
Hatchet Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Hatchet is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.