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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Man and the Natural World

Island of the Blue Dolphins presents an argument for a kinder, gentler relationship between humans and the natural world they live in. How does the book do this? Why, through the character of Karan...

Violence

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, violence always leads to more violence. The Aleutian hunters kill the otters of the island, and then massacre the people living there. Think the two events aren't re...

Friendship

Could you ever be friends with someone who's very different from you? Could you be friends with someone who hurt you? Scott O'Dell thinks both of these things are totally possible – and so do we....

Isolation

The idea of "alone time" takes on a whole new meaning when you're stranded on a desert island. No one knows this better than Karana, the heroine of Island of the Blue Dolphins. Karana's entire vill...

Foreignness and 'the Other'

What happens in Island of the Blue Dolphins when two wildly different cultures are pitted against each other? In Round 1, the Aleuts take on the native islanders and literally massacre them. Cultur...

Gender

Ahem, ready for a sociology lesson? OK, here we go, then. What is gender? Well, when we talk about gender, we mean the social expectations that are associated with males and females. That is, the w...

Memory and the Past

As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This is definitely true for Karana, the protagonist of Island of the Blue Dolphins. She's haunted by the old memories o...

Language and Communication

Can we talk? No, we mean really talk? Good. Because that's what this novel really wants us to do. Talk.Why?Communication barriers can really cause problems – especially when cultures come into co...

Tradition and Customs

To the 21st-century Shmooper, the Island of the Blue Dolphins might seem like a pretty strange place. The island people practice traditions and customs that we just don't follow today. But, hey, Ka...
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