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What I Just Read: Island of the Blue Dolphins (Part II: Summary)

Category: readers, Teens, The Teen Scene, tweens
Posted: December 21, 2018

By: Nada A., Teen Blogger

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell begins with an introduction of the narrator and her brother. Karana, or Wonapalei, is a vibrant girl who lives in the village of Ghalas-at with her sister Ulape, her brother, Ramo, and her father, the chief. While collecting roots for the tribeswomen, Karana sees a red ship in the distance, which she immediately recognizes as belonging to the Aleuts.

Ghalas-at is informed, and the tribe lines up on the shore to welcome their visitors. The Aleuts request that they hunt otter during their stay, but the Indians believe that the ocean surrounding the Island of the Blue Dolphins is in their control and possession. Therefore, they refuse to let them hunt a large amount of otter.

Soon, the tribe notices that they have not received their share of the otter. Karana’s father asks that the Aleuts give them their most valuable treasures as payment. An uprising starts when the leader of the Aleuts strikes Karana’s father on the head, instantly killing him. The Indians gather stones and spears, ready to attack, but they are no match for the Aleuts’ strange weapons. A large number of men are killed from the tiny village and the Aleuts advance into the Pacific Ocean. The aftermath of the attack leaves Ghalas-at in turmoil and silence. Kimki, an old, wise soul, is elected as the new chief. He demands that the women take over some work previously done by the men, which many families disapprove of since it is a sign of shame and dishonor.

Not much later, Kimki decides to embark on a voyage to a nearby country that he had visited as a child. The village watches eagerly as he disappears into the horizon. Years pass, and Kimki never returns. A new leader, Matasaip, is elected. Under his command, the village keeps a lookout for the Aleuts. He and the tribe will flee if they arrive, as they do not have enough men to fight.

Eventually, the Aleuts arrive. But the Ghalas-at people notice something odd. The ship is now white instead of red. These aren’t the Aleuts but white men who insist on taking the Indians off to find Kimki. In desperation, the tribe decides to go.

As they set sail, Karana sees that her brother Ramo is missing. She spots him standing on the shore helplessly with his spear. Despite efforts to restrain her, Karana leaps into the ocean for the sake of staying with Ramo. Karana and Ramo stand on the shore, expecting the ship to turn around and come for them, but it departs. Ramo is killed by wild dogs a few hours later while climbing on the cliff.

Karana, now alone, has to fight for survival. Angry and full of despair, she burns the entire village of Ghalas-at and sleeps on a rock. Wild dogs watch every move she makes and sometimes circle around her sleeping place at night. Karana decides to prepare some tools to defend herself, though she struggles to go against tradition, as it is unlawful for women to create weapons. This moment establishes a real conflict between tradition and survival. Fearful yet determined to survive, she builds a spear from an elephant’s tusk.

Several years pass by, and the Aleuts return once more. Karana tries to hide, but her protection isn’t sufficient, and a girl named Tutok spots her. She and Tutok quickly become friends. While they face a language barrier, they understand each other through body language.

Unfortunately, the Aleuts leave the next summer, and Karana is lonely again. Rather than focus on her survival needs, she spends her leisure time creating bracelets, necklaces, and making weapons.

Two years later, white men arrive on her island, and Karana prepares to flee. But seeing herself as a woman now, she tries her best to talk to the men. They explain that her people had drowned just days after their departure due to a disastrous storm. Before she knows it, Karana is sailing to a foreign country and saying goodbye to the Island of the Blue Dolphins.

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