Hatchet is a 1987 Newbery-award winning novel by Gary Paulsen about a thirteen-year-old boy who survives in the Canadian wilderness for fifty-four days after a plane crash with little more than a hatchet and a sense of desperation. It has sold over two million copies and is beloved by an entire generation.
First of all, no, you wouldn’t. You’re the type of person who takes survival quizzes while you’re at work, carefully minimizing the screen whenever someone walks behind your desk. You have never missed a meal in your adult life; if you ever did you would become unbearable within a half an hour. You can’t run a mile and yet some part of you is convinced you’d make it just fine on The Walking Dead, which isn’t even a real thing that could ever happen to you.
On a puddle-jumper en route to the oil fields of Northern Canada, your bush pilot suffers a sudden, fatal heart attack. He slumps over the controls, sending the plane into a nosedive. You see a clearing up ahead. What do you do?
You can barely keep yourself composed on a passenger plane. Your great-grandparents single-handedly ran ranches in West Texas for decades, repairing fences and driving livestock through rough weather and praying for rain and you work in an office and have no real problems and go to your doctor every time you have to fly to ask for muscle relaxants. The reason you cannot relax by yourself is because you do not ever actually work. You live in a state of constant relaxation and have mistaken that for depression.
After constructing a minimal shelter and finding some berries, you are attacked by a porcupine. There are no medical supplies for hundreds of miles. How do you nurse yourself back to health?
You don’t. You would die. You would die of a handful of porcupine quills, which have almost certainly already started developing a secondary infection. Once when you were twelve, you broke your ankle falling down a stairwell while horsing around with your friends after church, and you lay there at the bottom of the stairwell for half an hour until someone found you. You were in the middle of a building full of people and had three perfectly serviceable limbs with which to haul yourself up the railing, but you were so incapable of fending for yourself that you shut down entirely. A porcupine would kill you in an instant.
Also, you would have already lost the hatchet at this point.
Using your hatchet, you are able to fashion a crude bow and arrow that you use to hunt f–
No, you’re not.
One night a tornado sweeps through the area and destroys the crude shelter you have constructed for yourself. How and where do you rebuild?
You would not. You would give up. You forgot to bring socks on a camping trip when you were sixteen, and you borrowed socks from your friends until they wouldn’t lend you any more of your own stuff. You would halfheartedly fling a few sticks together, then try to feel sorry for yourself in a picturesque manner, in case anyone is watching and decides to take pity on you. No one is; no one does.
While you are hunting, a search and rescue plane flies overhead, then disappears over the horizon, despite your attempts to flag it down. What do you do?
You give up and die. You have never hunted anything in your life. You cannot even do a pushup. The emotional weight of such a disappointment would crush your spirit into the dust.
Your results: You would make it through 2 pages of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet!
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.