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Free Online Notes-Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell-Synopsis/Analysis
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ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS - FREE BOOK NOTES

IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS / QUOTES

The pages given are from Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, illustrated by Ted Lewin, published by Houghton Miffin Company, Boston, text copyright 1960 by Scott O’Dell, Illustrations copyright 1990 by Ted Lewin.

1. “‘The Aleuts come from a country far to the north,’ he said. ‘Their ways are not ours nor is their language. They have come to take otter and to give us our share in many goods which they have and which we can use. In this way shall we profit. But we shall not profit if we try to befriend them. They are people who do not understand friendship. They are not those who were here before, but they are people of the same tribe that caused trouble many years ago.’” (p. 10-1)

From statements like this, Karana developed her early view of others. But, as time passes, she becomes wiser and realizes that individuals can be different than the groups to which they belong. She also realizes that groups and individuals that at first seem to be bad, may not be.

2. “... I never went to the cove and whenever I saw the hunters with their long spears skimming over the water, I was angry, for these animals were my friends. It was fun to see them playing or sunning themselves among the kelp. It was more fun than the thought of beads to wear around my neck.” (p. 16)

At this point Karana has a fondness for animals that are not a danger to her. As she has more experiences, we will see her learn to care about even those animals that are a danger to her.

3. “I vowed that someday I would go back and kill the wild dogs in the cave. I would kill all of them.” (p. 48)

Karana is suffering the loss of her brother. The wild dogs have killed him. She is full of revenge.

4. “I had never noticed before how silent the village was. Fog crept in and out of the empty huts. It made shapes as it drifted and they reminded me of all the people who were dead and those who were gone. The noise of the surf seemed to be their voices speaking.” (p. 49)

Karana is explaining why she decided to leave the village.

5. "...I wondered what would happen to me if I went against the law of our tribe which forbade the making of weapons by women--if I did not think of it at all and made those things which I must have to protect myself.

"Would the four winds blow in from the four directions of the world and smother me as I made the weapons? Or, would the earth tremble, as many said, and bury me beneath its falling rocks? Or, as others said, would the sea rise over the island in a terrible flood? Would the weapons break in my hands in the moment when my life was in danger, which is what my father had said?" (p. 53-4)

Karana is deciding whether she should go against the tradition of her tribe and make weapons. In her tribe women do not make weapons. Different tribal members have different reasons why women should not make weapons.

6. “I thought about these things for two days and on the third night when the wild dogs returned to the rock, I made up my mind that no matter what befell me I would make the weapons.” (p. 54)

This was a very difficult decision for Karana to make. If she was successful in making and using weapons, she would be safer than she currently was. But, if she failed, things could go very badly. She might even lose her life as a result.

7. “Dolphins are animals of good omen. It made me happy to have them swimming around the canoe, and though my hands had begun to bleed from the chafing of the paddle, just watching them made me forget the pain. I was very lonely before they appeared, but now I felt that I had friends with me and did not feel the same.

“The blue dolphins left me shortly before dusk. They left as quickly as they had come, going on into the west, but for a long time I could see the last of the sun shining on them. After night fell I could still see them in my thoughts and it was because of this that I kept on paddling when I wanted to lie down and sleep.

“More than anything, it was the blue dolphins that took me back home.” (p. 65-6)

In a very real sense, the dolphins did take Karana back home because the thought of them helped her keep on paddling when she wanted to sleep. See the section on symbolism for more on dolphins.

8. “On the morning I first sighted the island and it had seemed like a great fish sunning itself, I thought that someday I would make the canoe over and go out once more to look for the country that lay beyond the ocean. Now I knew that I would never go again.

The Island of the Blue Dolphins was my home; I had no other. It would be my home until the white men returned in their ship.” (p. 68)

This is where Karana begins to think of living on the island long term. After this point she makes plans for a permanent home on the island.

9. “There was a legend among our people that the island had once been covered with tall trees. This was a long time ago, at the beginning of the world when Tumaiyowit and Mukat ruled. The two gods quarreled about many things. Tumaiyowit wished people to die. Mukat did not. Tumaiyowit angrily went down, down to another world under this world, taking his belongings with him, so people die because he did.” (p. 73)

Ths is a legend that Karana heard when her people were still on the island. Their ancestors for many generations had handed it down from generation to generation.

10. “I am sure that the pack grew bolder because of their leader, the big one with the thick fur around his neck and the yellow eyes.

“I had never seen this dog before the Aleuts came and no one else had, so he must have come with them and been left behind when they sailed away. He was a much larger dog than any of ours, which besides have short hair and brown eyes. I was sure that he was an Aleut dog.” (p. 89)

Karana describes her enemy, who will soon be her friend. This is the dog that she set out to kill, but could not kill.

11. “On the fourth day when I came back from the rocks early he was not there at the fence waiting. A strange feeling came over me. Always before when I returned, I had hoped that he would be gone. But now as I crawled under the fence I did not feel the same.

“I call out, ‘Dog, Dog,” for I had no other name for him.

“I ran toward the house, calling it. He was inside. He was just getting to his feet, stretching himself and yawning. He looked first at the fish I carried and then at me and moved his tail.

“That night I stayed in the house. Before I fell asleep I thought of a name for him, for I could not call him Dog. The name I thought of was Rontu, which means in our language Fox Eyes,”

At this point the relationship between Karana and Rontu becomes permanent.

“I saw two more giant devilfish along the reef that summer, but I did not try to spear them.” (p. 121)


Karana is developing a new respect for animals. Her respect for animals is starting to include even those who are a danger to her.

12. “... on a deep ledge that ran from one side of the room to the other, my gaze fell upon a row of strange figures. There must have been two dozen of them standing against the black wall. They were as tall as I, with long arms and legs and short bodies made of reeds and clothed in gull feathers. Each one had eyes fashioned of round or oblong disks of abalone shell, but the rest of their faces were blank. The eyes glittered down at me, moved as the light on the water moved and was reflected upon them. They were more alive than the eyes of those who live.

“In the middle of the group was a seated figure, a skeleton. It sat leaning against the wall with its knees drawn up and in its fingers, which were raised to its mouth, a flute of pelican bone.” (p. 124-5)

At this time, Karana is in a cave. When she finally gets out of the cave, she decides to never return. As she leaves the cave and decides to never return, she also leaves her former life.

13. “Ulape would have laughed at me, and others would have laughed, too--my father most of all. Yet this is the way I felt about the animal who had become my friends and those who were not, but in time could be. If Ulape and my father had come back and laughed, and all the others had come back and laughed, still I would have felt the same way, for animals and birds are like people, too, though they do not talk the same or do the same things. Without them the earth would be an unhappy place.” (p. 153)

This is where Island of the Blue Dolphins differs from many other adventure stories. It is the story of changing attitudes as well as of adventures. And, the author seems to be voicing his own beliefs about the importance of nature.

14. “Slowly he walked to where I was standing and fell at my feet. I put my hand on his chest. I could feel his heart beating, but it beat only twice, very slowly, loud and hollow like the waves on the beach, and then no more......I buried him on the headland. I dug a hole in the crevice of the rock, digging for two days from dawn until the going down of the sun, and put him there with some sand flowers and a stick he liked to chase when I threw it, and covered him with pebbles of many colors that I gathered on the shore.” (p. 156-7)

Here Karana describes the death of her beloved friend, Rontu.

15. “For a long time I stood and looked back at the Island of the Blue Dolphins. The last thing I saw of it was the high headland. I thought of Rontu lying there beneath the stones of many colors, and of Won-a-tee, wherever she was, and the little red fox that would scratch in vain at my fence, and my canoe hidden in the cave, and of all the happy days.

Dolphins rose out of the sea and swam before the ship. They swam for many leagues in the morning through the bright water, weaving their foamy patterns. The little birds were chirping in their cage and Rontu-Aru sat beside me.” (p. 178)

This is the end of Karana’s tale. Earlier, she mentioned that dolphins are a good omen. She had positive expectations for her future. And, she had happy memories of her lone life on the island.

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