The Role of Fate and Survival in Hatchet and Walk Two Moons (NC)

While I’m not normally one for “Castaway” type narratives (Sorry, Wilson), I must admit that I found Paulsen’s Hatchet striking in its narration of Brian Robeson’s survival in the Canadian wilderness. Within Hatchet, I think there’s something to be said for this concept of “faHatchette,” or “luck”as Brian might call it. While one might say that Brian suffered bad luck or fate by becoming victim to a plane crash, ultimately, a series of small good turns of fate lead to his survival and recovery (namely the hatchet on his belt, the windstorm, and the recovery of the survival bag followed by the accidental turning on of the emergency transmitter all working in tandem). He needed each of those occurrences combined in order to live on through his journey.

We see “fate” acting in similar manner in Walk Two Moons; the characters are brought together via unfortunate event and ultimately manage survival through each other. Phoebe and Sal heal each other from the loss of their mothers, as Mrs. Cadaver bonds with Mr. Hiddle from their common interest of having had a deep connection with Chanhassen (Sugar).

The question being presented at hand is how much does “fate” affect our chance of survival as people? Do the small, seemingly innocuous actions we take part in (strapping a hatchet to one’s belt to please your saddened mother, for instance) make the most differenceWalk-Two-Moons? Are small chance encounters the ones that end up mattering the most over the course of our lives (Mrs. Cadaver being seated next to Chanhassen during the six day bus tour to Lewiston, Idaho).

I’d be extremely interested in exploring these ideas in a classroom setting with students.


3 thoughts on “The Role of Fate and Survival in Hatchet and Walk Two Moons (NC)

  1. *P.O* A Walk Two Moons- oh how I loved that book! I think it’s so easy to see yourself in Phobe and Sal position because they are so innocent and straight forward. I think as you grow older you love some part of your identity because of the sensory adults are suppose to have towards each other in order to promote and demonstrate respect. Phobe and Sal have not gotten to the point where they have to keep everything a secret but you can easily see them grow into this conception. It reminds of me the life of a school teacher, where they are viewing day by day the way their student’s are growing and also becoming more censored. After reading this I wonder if this sensory that demonstrates manners and politeness is always a good thing?

  2. Hatchet was such an enjoyable read that I used excerpts for my fieldwork on teaching writing. My young charge was fascinated by the way the protagonist reasoned his way into surviving the rigors of the Canadian wilderness. Although this one ended well, and we can continue to speculate on the role of fate in our chances of success or failure, I couldn’t help but think about another book, “Into the Wild,” which I read recently. Here, however, the protagonist made some fatal mistakes that cost him his life. And again, the question of fate comes to mind. He clearly was not suicidal but he took some chances that any “right” thinking person would deem insane. Yet this young man was exceptionally intelligent. Was he fated to die such a horrible death? Or do we fall back on this question because there seems to be no other logical way of coming to terms with such tragedy?

  3. I believe the idea of fate is a manifestation of change and the individual’s inability to prevent it from happening. I often hear the word fate clustered together with the various other conflicts found in literature – e.g. man v. nature, man v. society, man v. self, man v. fate, etc. Here it is seen as an obstacle, adversary or antagonist that the character is meant to defeat and overcome. With regard to your question of how much “fate” affects our chance of survival as people? If we look at fate in the same way we view the other conflicts, as an agent of change, then we might come to the conclusion that, whether we are prepared to accept it or not, life is full of change. Hurricanes will come to New York, opinions about issues will oscillate, and loved ones die unexpectedly. That the hurricanes and opinions and deaths and changes occur is not the point. I believe the question might be more in the direction of how we handle those changes (fate) after they occur. -mm

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