Study Guide

Island of the Blue Dolphins Friendship

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"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." (2.7)

Why doesn't Chief Chowig want to be friends with the Aleuts? Why don't the Aleuts understand friendship?

Many of our tribe went to the cliff each night to count the number killed during the day. They counted the dead otter and thought of the beads and other things that each pelt meant. But 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. (3.5)

Karana values the friendship of the otter more than the beads that their pelts can be traded for. This is how she is different from both the Aleuts and most of her tribe.

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. (10.35)

Dolphins, too, are special animals for Karana. They're her friends. (Shoot, why don't we have dolphin friends?) The island is also in the shape of a dolphin. Why might that be?

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. (15.37)

In the beginning, Karana is enemies with the leader of the dog pack, but she eventually becomes his buddy. Even after trying to kill him! Why? Is it important that Karana gives the dog a name?

Would he come back, I wondered, or had he gone to live with the wild dogs? Would he again be my enemy? If he were my enemy, I knew that I could never kill him, now that he had been my friend. (17.7)

When Rontu disappears, Karana wonders what her relationship with him will be like. Why would she not be able to kill him now that they've become friends? What does this say about friendship (besides the fact that we don't often try to kill our friends)?

The young birds were not like their mother and father, being gray and very ugly, but anyway, I took them from the nest and put them in a small cage that I made of reeds. So later in the spring, when all the birds except the crows left the island and flew off to the north, I had these two for friends. (18.4)

Karana becomes friends with many animals on the island – including a pair of birds.

She touched the necklace, giving the word for it, and I gave mine. We pointed out other things – the spring, the cave, a gull flying, the sun and the sky, Rontu asleep – trading the names for them and laughing because they were so different. We sat there on the rock until the sun was in the west and played this game. Then Tutok rose and made a gesture of farewell. (22.10)

Karana and the Aleut girl make friends by learning each other's language. How does this go against her father's opinion that the Aleuts don't understand friendship? How is communication important to their friendship?

I often thought of Tutok, but on these days especially I would look off into the north and wish that she were here to see me. I could hear her talking in her strange language and I would make up things to say to her and things for her to say to me. (23.18)

Communication is the key to the friendship between Karana and Tutok.

After that summer, after being friends with Won-a-nee and her young, I never killed another otter. I had an otter cape for my shoulders, which I used until it wore out, but never again did I make a new one. Nor did I ever kill another cormorant for its beautiful feathers, though they have long thin necks and make ugly sounds when they talk to each other. Nor did I kill seals for their sinews, using instead kelp to bind the things that needed it. Nor did I kill another wild dog, nor did I try to spear another elephant. (24.18)

The friendship between Won-a-nee and Karana changes Karana's way of looking at the world. Looks like friendship is a very powerful thing.

Since night had fallen and it was too dark for me to carry Rontu back, I stayed there. I sat beside him through the night and talked to him. At dawn I took him in my arms and left the cave. (25.10)

As Rontu is dying, she treats him as a friend, and as a human, even though he's a dog.

We had many happy times that summer, fishing and going to Tall Rock in our canoe, but more and more now I thought of Tutok and my sister Ulape. Sometimes I would hear their voices in the wind and often, when I was on the sea, in the waves that lapped softly against the canoe. (26.13)

Karana misses the companionship of her sister or Tutok. Is there something different about friendships with other humans as compared to friendships with animals?

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