Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
As with almost every great deserted island tale, the end of the novel shows our heroine leaving the island. Where's she going? We're not entirely sure, but we do know that she – and her little dog too (OK, and her birds) – are leaving their home. While on the island, Karana has come to represent a new kind of social order there: she learned to deeply respect the animals and their natural environment. She rejects violence. She welcomes friendship and empathy. But what does the ending of the book hint about Karana's future, and the future of the values she represents?
A few clues to think about:
1. She puts a marker on her nose.
Like her sister Ulape, Karana puts the mark of an unmarried woman on her face. Does this mean that she's returning to the old ways of her village? Does this mean that her way of life on the island was only a temporary one?
2. She puts on a dress.
Here, Karana is taking up the ways of white culture, even though she doesn't like the dress. Does this mean that she's going to become like the women of the white men's culture? Why isn't she allowed to wear her cormorant skirt?
3. She seems happy.
Wearing the markers of both her old culture and her new one, Karana feels happy (or at least at peace). Is this a good sign? What will happen to her on the mainland, do you think?