The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Novel Summary:chp9-12
Summary – Chapter Nine and Chapter Ten
Karana does not leave the village for a while and does so only when she runs out of abalone. On a morning of thick fog she decides to not live there any longer. The fog drifts in and out of the huts and makes shapes and reminds her of the people who have died and left. She sits for a long time and then sets fire to the huts one by one. She has only a basket of food and takes this to her new place of settlement. This is on a headland and is half a league to the west of Coral Grove.
She wants weapons to protect herself from the dogs. She searches for any that might have been left as ‘the laws of Ghalas-at forbade the making of weapons by women of the tribe’. She digs up a chest left by the Aleuts in her search and when she finally uncovers it she discovers it is full of beads, bracelets and earrings. She puts on some of the trinkets and forgets about the hunt for spearheads. She walks about in the items until she remembers the battle and the men who brought the goods. After a long time of looking at them, she throws the trinkets into the sea as she knows she can never wear them.
She does not think about weapons for a few days until the wild dogs come back and dig up the food she has left and circle below the rock she sleeps on. The rock is too high for them, but she is still frightened. She wonders what will happen if she goes against the laws of the tribe (and makes weapons). Her father warned her that the weapons would break in her hands when in danger and she wonders if this true. She decides eventually to go ahead and make them and to try to avoid thinking about it.
She would like to have a sea elephant tusk as a weapon, as a spearhead, but does not have the means to kill one. Usually it takes three men to catch one and even then they often got away. Instead of this she takes the root of a tree and shapes it into a point on the fire and binds it to a rock. She also makes a bow and arrows. She has seen her father doing this but has not observed him with the thought she would one day be doing the same thing. It takes many days before she has made a bow and arrows she can use.
It is pleasant sleeping on the headland. In the morning, she watches the gulls leave their nests and the pelicans hunt. She also sees the sea otter hunting, as they returned not long after the Aleut left. Every morning she looks for the ship to take her away, but each morning she only sees the birds flying over the sea. Now she is alone she does not have to get up until later in the morning – when the sun is high in the sky. She eats, bathes and goes to the shore for fish and abalone. She climbs on to the rock before dark and watches the sun set.
In Chapter Ten, the summer passes and winter comes around again and still the ship does not return. She thinks she will have to wait until at least another winter passes. She begins to feel lonely as her hopes of leaving die.
When the wind becomes stronger, she moves to the foot of the rock and keeps a fire going all night for protection. The dogs stand nearby and she kills three of them with her arrows and they do not come back. On the sixth day, the storm comes to an end and she goes to the hidden canoes. The dried food is still there and is palatable, but she needs fresh water.
During the storm she had decided to take a canoe once it was calm and head east. She prefers this to staying alone on the island ‘pursued by wild dogs’ and always being reminded of the dead and those who have left.
She sets off and by dusk she looks back and sees the island has disappeared. For the first time she feels afraid. She uses the stars as a guide and makes sure the North Star is on her left-hand side.
The canoe springs a leak and she tries to fix it with the fibre of her skirt. In
daylight she sees the leak is worse and the planks are weak from one end of the canoe to the other. She recognizes the danger and decides to turn back home. It is not too windy and she is escorted back by a school of dolphins. She thinks of this as a good omen and they also make her feel less lonely. She reaches the island the next day and is too tired to think of the dogs and falls asleep on the beach.
Analysis – Chapter Nine and Chapter Ten
Now Karana is alone she begins to make decisions for her survival and in so doing breaks the taboos she has learned to conform to. She has previously not been allowed to make weapons as she is female, but necessity now dictates that she learns to do this for her survival. She goes on to kill wild dogs to protect herself and thus demonstrates how the patriarchal division of labor is founded on myth rather than biological truth.
This is also, of course, an adventure story and this is maintained by the various predicaments she must survive. Even when she attempts to escape the island but fails because of the leaking canoe, she is seen to have a resourcefulness that is admirable. This lone individual battles the elements and continues to survive.
Summary – Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve and Chapter Thirteen
Karana is woken by the waves dragging at her feet and moves to a higher place and falls back to sleep. When she wakes properly, she moves the canoe to safety and takes out her food and weapons. She returns to the headland and is filled with happiness at the familiar sights such as the otter swimming. She thinks she will never leave the island again and that this will be her home until the ship returns for her. She knows in the meantime she will have to build a shelter. She decides on a place to do this and also constructs a fence to keep out the red foxes that populate the island.
Years ago two whales were washed up and she uses some of their ribs for the fence in Chapter Twelve. She builds a shelter gradually as she needs to find wood for poles and then construct it. Winter is half over by the times she finishes it. She kills two more dogs, but not the leader, as they circle her fence.
For cooking, she uses stones and makes shelves from rocks to keep her food away from the mice. When winter is over, she is content with her home and thinks it is time now to get rid of the wild dogs. She needs a heavier spear and a larger bow and arrows and sets about making these. Once more she thinks about the uses of a bull sea elephant tooth, but still cannot work out how to kill one on her own.
Despite her fears of injury and attack by the wild dogs, she goes to the sea elephant colony in Chapter Thirteen. She decides to kill the smallest male sea elephant and crawls behind a rock close to it. She suddenly remembers her father’s warning about her weapon breaking, and fires and misses. At the same time, an older bull has moved toward this younger one as the latter has been approaching the cows. He barges the younger rival into the sea and bears down on him. She falls over as she moves out of the way and gashes her leg. She stays until the sun goes down and the two are still locked in battle.
Analysis – Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve and Chapter Thirteen
In these chapters, Karana decides to settle here on the island until she is rescued. From this point, she begins to establish herself and create a more settled environment. She does not fully leave her past behind, though, as the memories of her father’s words urging her to not make weapons come back to put her off her aim. The ghosts of the past are beginning to recede, but she is seen to still be fearful of breaking learned taboos.
Her decision to kill the dogs is a signal of her courage, as is her attempt to kill a sea elephant when we have already been told that this usually requires three men. She is an isolated heroine and is, therefore, given the freedom through necessity of demonstrating her bravery.
Summary – Chapter Fourteen and Chapter Fifteen
Karana reaches home and does not leave it for five days because her leg is painful. By the fifth day, she has to go out to fetch more water and food and when she stops to rest the wild dogs appear. They leave when she takes up her bow and arrow.
She reaches the spring and feels better after drinking some water. She realizes the pack has returned and has split up on either side of the ravine around her. She crawls into a cave and knows she is safe and stays there for six days until her leg is better.
While there, she decides to make this into another house in case she is ever injured again. She puts provisions and a bow and arrow in there and blocks up the entrance with rocks, and leaves enough space to crawl through.
She returns to the sea elephants and finds the body of the old bull. She takes teeth for four good spear ‘points’ and makes two more spears. With this done, she is at last ready to go to the cave of the wild dogs.
In Chapter Fifteen, the pack of dogs has grown stronger and she thinks the leader was an Aleut dog as no one saw it before they came and is much larger than the others. She goes to the cave and collects armloads of brush and places it in the mouth of the lair. The dogs spend the night prowling and go to the cave to sleep early in the morning. She waits until they are inside and sets fire to the brush. Once she starts the fire, she climbs a ledge and takes her weapons with her.
Eventually the leader comes out, after some of the others, and he sniffs the air rather than running away. Fortunately for her, he is not frightened off and faces her. She shoots an arrow into his chest and kills two others when they come out. While she is shooting at these, the leader leaves. She cannot find him and decides to go into the cave, but finds only a mother with four grey pups.
On the trail home, she finds a broken arrow that has been gnawed but still does not see the leader. She makes more arrows at home and two days later goes out again. She finds the leader with the broken arrow in its chest and is about to throw her spear at it when he raises his head and then lets it drop. She is not sure if he is playing dead or not and almost fires an arrow at him. She stands watching and cannot say why she does not fire. Instead, she goes to him and picks him up and takes him to the headland and back to her house.
He does not move or flinch when she lays him down and removes the arrow and cleans the wound. She fetches food and still wonders why she has not killed him. When she returns, she cleans the wound again. She shares her food with him as he gets better and after eating he comes nearer and lies closer to the fire. For four nights he sleeps there and she sleeps on the rock as she is still afraid of him. Each day she gives him a fish which he eats from the ground. On the fourth day of doing this, he is not at the fence waiting for her and she feels strange about this. She calls out ‘“Dog, Dog”’ as she has no other name for him. He has been inside her house and wags his tail when he looks at the fish and her. She stays in the house that night and thinks she will call him Rontu ‘which means in our language Fox Eyes’.
Analysis – Chapter Fourteen and Chapter Fifteen
The wild dogs add an element of danger to the narrative as they are a direct threat to Karana. Her decision to kill them also heightens this sense of peril, and this in turn invites us to consider her as courageous as she refuses to be intimidated by them.
Her later actions towards the dog she comes to call Rontu conversely allows us to see her compassion and ultimately this is seen to be preferable to the desire for revenge that she has harbored. She begins to trust him and the narrative encourages the readers to see this bond between human and animal as more desirable than the acts of violence they have both inflicted.