Island Of The Blue Dolphins Essay
How does Karana's life before being marooned prepare her to survive on the island?
Karana is no stranger to hardship even before she is left behind on the island. She explains that before the Aleuts came, her people had to work hard to survive on Ghalas-at, a small, windswept island without much vegetation or animal life. Karana and her tribe are hunters and gatherers, which means they have to forage for food every day if they want to eat. If bad weather or a natural disaster interferes with their hunting, they run the risk of starving. Karana's early life with her tribe teacher her many survival skills such as storing food and fishing. Her tribe's deadly fight with the Aleuts also leaves her familiar with tragedy, and provides her with the emotional resilience to overcome challenges.
How does Karana's personality change after being marooned?
Before being marooned, Karana sees herself as a responsible figure, and looks down on her brother Ramo's creativity and playfulness. Although she stays responsible after she is left behind, she gradually starts to entertain herself by adopting Ramo's tendency to "pretend that one thing was another" (2). She also becomes more sensitive to animals – in fact, she becomes so close to her otter friends that she stops hunting them. Perhaps most importantly, she begins to make moral decisions independently, and starts to reject some of her tribe's values. For example, she stops making clothes from animal pelts and creates weapons for herself even though she is a woman. Overall, her personality changes when she decides to prioritize her own values over those dictated to her by her society.
Why does Karana burn down her tribe's village?
Karana explains that she burned down her village because it is too painful for her to be reminded of earlier tragedies in her life, such as the battle with the Aleuts and Ramo's death. However, destroying the village also suggests that Karana is leaving behind the ways of her people and starting a new, independent life. Shortly after she burns down the village, she gains the courage to build her own weapons for the first time, despite her tribe's prohibition against it. By erasing the physical evidence of her past, Karana gives herself a blank slate on which to build a new future.
Why does Karana not help Rontu in his fight with the other dogs?
Although Rontu is Karana's best friend, she decides not to help him when he fights the new wild dog leaders. What this indicates is a new awareness that she is not superior to nature, but rather is at the mercy of its ebbs and flows. Early on, she thinks she can kill any animal with enough ingenuity, and modify a canoe to help her escape over the sea. However, she learns over time that she is susceptible to nature's changes - her escape fails because the waves are too strong, and she is wounded when trying to kill a sea lion. This understanding is why she lets Rontu fight the dogs, recognizing their battle as part of nature. She knows that they will attack him later if she interferes, so instead lets the fight play itself out. She may have interfered had he actually lost the battle, but in general would rather let nature take its course than immediately involving herself in it.
Why does Karana not trust Tutok? Do you think she is right not to trust her?
Karana clearly remembers her tribe's violent encounter with the Aleuts, and so remains suspicious of newcomers to the island. This is why it takes her so long to trust Tutok. Despite her extensive knowledge of the island, she is not physically strong enough to fight off multiple people who might bear her ill will. However, her reluctance to talk with strangers prevents her from getting rescued on multiple occasions. Tutok's friendliness suggests that the Aleuts might have been willing to help Karana, and when the white sailors come later in the book, Karana is so slow to come out and greet them that she misses a chance to leave the island. Ultimately, there is no definite answer to the question; instead, the complication shows how hard it is to manage cultural differences between people.
How does Karana keep herself happy on the island?
Despite her difficult circumstances, Karana draws on her mental and emotional strength to keep herself happy on the island. She sets goals for herself and devotes her energy to long-term projects, such as building a spear out of sea-lion teeth and sewing a skirt from cormorant feathers. Although she is deeply lonely, she finds companionship with animals, including with Rontu, Tainor and Lurai, Won-a-Nee the otter, and Rontu-Aru. She also dresses up occasionally, wearing jewelry and her best skirt. Although there is no one on the island to see her, these special occasions help her keep track of time and feel like she is still a member of society. Overall, Karana keeps herself happy by allowing herself to enjoy life's natural pleasures. In other words, she lets herself be happy.
After Rontu's death, Karana stop keeping track of how long she has been on the island. Why do you think this is?
Karana stops keeping track of time after Rontu dies. Her grief makes it difficult for her to function, and she loses track of how much time has passed. Even after she adopts other pets like Rontu-Aru, she has clearly given up on the task. What this indicates is that Karana has fully accepted her new life, and no longer expects to be rescued. She feels herself to be a part of nature, and now lets it lead her through its ebbs and flows rather than imposing time upon it. Considering how Rontu had always been something of a symbol for her, it could be argued she has accepted her mortality, and her lack of control over it. When the white men later come to the island, she discovers how much she truly wishes to leave, but for a long period before that, she lived as though she had no control over life and nature one way or the other.
What do the dolphins symbolize?
Dolphins are very important for Karana and her tribe. In fact, they call Ghalas-at the "Island of the Blue Dolphins" because it is shaped like a dolphin. When Karana tries to row to Santa Catalina Island early in the novel, she almost gives in to desperation when the waves force her back. Her survival is due almost solely to some dolphins that swim beside her. To Karana, the dolphins symbolize hope for the future. They inspire her to keep rowing even when she thinks she is too exhausted to continue. After seeing them, she changes her worldview, accepting that she may be on the island for a long time. Further, she discovers that she can find beauty even there, and that hope for happiness can exist even when hope for rescue seems futile.
Discuss Karana's relationship with animals. How does it change over the course of the novel?
As a young girl, Karana loves animals. Not only does she consider them necessary for survival, but she also becomes upset when the Aleut hunters kill so many of the otter in Coral Cove. Although she does not have a close relationship with the otter, she recognizes that they are graceful and fun-loving creatures, and she is upset to see them killed.
After she is abandoned on the island, her attitude toward animals becomes more negative. To her, they symbolize a quality of nature over which she has no control. She blames the wild dogs for killing Ramo and spends months plotting her revenge against them. She has no problem killing animals out of necessity (for food) or to make luxury items for herself, such as the cormorant skirt. In short, she considers them solely relevant to her survival.
But over the years, she comes to realize that she is a part of nature, and not superior to it. Along with this burgeoning attitude, she gradually starts to see animals as her friends. Rontu becomes her most faithful companion, and she gives him a human-style burial when he dies. After befriending Won-a-nee the otter and her two babies, Karana decides that she will only kill animals out of necessity. She will no longer think of herself as superior to nature.
Karana has several encounters with people before she is finally rescued. How does she respond? How does her attitude toward other people change as the years go by?
In her early years on the island, Karana lives in fear that the Aleuts will return to hunt otter. She worries that they will remember their fight with her tribe many years before, and will want to hurt her. Overall, she worries that neither she nor they will be able to transcend their cultural differences. Because of this, she creates an elaborate escape plan and stockpiles supplies in case they return. When they do eventually come back, she hides in her cave and only comes out at night in order to avoid them.
It is only when she is accidentally discovered by Tutok, a woman accompanying the hunting party, that she realizes that not every visitor to the island wants to hurt her. After Tutok leaves, Karana becomes more open to talking to visitors, realizing that people can transcend their cultural differences and show compassion. This new awareness is central towards her final willingness to introduce herself to the white sailors and hence ensure herself an escape from the island.
Essay Topic 1
1) Analyze the character of Karana.
2) How is she depicted by O'Dell?
3) How do her own words and actions reveal what type of character she is?
4) What do her relationships with her brother Ramo, and her animal friends reveal about her character?
Essay Topic 2
1) Summarize the survival skills Karana develops.
2) Include her methods of constructing and building her shelters.
3) How does she find and prepare food?
4) How does she tame animals?
5) What are her fishing methods?
Essay Topic 3
1) Discuss how Karana grows as a character from the beginning of the novel to the end.
2) How do her attitudes change toward the wild dogs?
3) How do her feelings change toward the Aleuts?
4) How do her feelings toward life on the island differ from the beginning to the end of the novel?
Essay Topic 4
1) Give three examples from the novel when Karana proves her selflessness and loyalty to a...
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