Study Guide

Island of the Blue Dolphins Violence

By Scott O'Dell

Violence

"There are scarcely a dozen left in the beds around Coral Cove," I said. "Before the Aleuts came there were many."

"Many still live in other places around our island," he replied, laughing at my foolishness. "When the hunters leave they will come back."

"There will be none left," I said. "The hunters will kill them all. This morning they hunt on the south. Next week they move to another place." (3.7-9)

Karana complains to her father about the hunters. They've thinned the island's population of otters, killing so many that there are only a few left. How do the hunters hurt the environment of the island?

I do not know what happened first, whether it was my father who raised his hand against the hunter whose path he barred, whether it was this man who stepped forward with a bale of pelts on his back and shoved my father aside. It all happened so quickly that I could not tell one act from the other. But as I jumped to my feet and Ulape screamed and other cries sounded along the cliff, I saw a figure lying on the rocks. It was my father and blood was on his face. Slowly he got to his feet. (4.45)

Chief Chowig is hit during an argument with Captain Orlov. What does this interaction say about each man's culture? Is it important that Karana can't seem to tell who even started the fight?

In the middle of the circle was Ramo. He was lying on his back, and had a deep wound in his throat. He lay very still. (8.43)

Why does the dog pack kill Ramo? What does Ramo represent? What does the dog pack represent?

All night I sat there with the body of my brother and did not sleep. I vowed that someday I would go back and kill the wild dogs in the cave. I would kill all of them. I thought of how I would do it, but mostly I thought of Ramo, my brother. (8.50)

Karana vows revenge against the dog pack for killing her brother. Why? Does she get her revenge?

Why I did not send the arrow I cannot say. I stood on the rock with the bow pulled back and my hand would not let it go. The big dog lay there and did not move and this may be the reason. If he had gotten up I would have killed him. I stood there for a long time looking down at him and then I climbed off the rocks.

He did not move when I went up to him, nor could I see him breathing until I was very close. The head of the arrow was in his chest and the broken shaft was covered with blood. The thick fur around his neck was matted from the rain. (15.22-23)

Karana does not kill the leader of the dog pack even though she planned to get revenge for the death of her brother. She just can't bring herself to shoot the arrow that would kill him. Why? What kind of relationship will Karana have later with the leader?

At that moment, while he lay there on the grass with the dog circling warily and the pack moving slowly toward him, without knowing that I did so, I fitted an arrow to the bow. A good distance separated Rontu from his attacker and I could end the battle before he was wounded further or the pack full upon him. Yet, as before, I did not send the arrow. (17.23)

Why doesn’t Karana stop the dog fight? What does Rontu's victory accomplish?

I tried to drag the devilfish out of the water, but my strength was gone. I did not even go back to the reef for my canoe, though I did take the shaft and the head of the spear, which had cost me much labors, and the sinew line. (19.37)

Though Karana kills the devilfish, she cannot drag his body from the water. She also ends up hurting herself. What does she learn from this battle?

My spear stood beside the mouth of the cave within easy reach. The girl was not more than ten paces from me and with one movement I could have picked up the spear and thrown it. Why I did not throw the spear, I do not know, for she was one of the Aleuts who had killed my people on the beach of Coral Cove. (21.17)

Instead of taking revenge on the young Aleut girl, Karana holds herself back from attacking. The two eventually become friends. How is the relationship similar to Karana's experience with Rontu? How is it different from the relationship between Chief Chowig and Captain Orlov?

The hungers left many wounded otter behind them. Some floated in and died on the shore and others I killed with my spear since they were suffering and could not live. But I found a young otter than was not badly hurt. (23.1)

What is Karana's relationship to the otter who gets hurt by the hunters? Does she hurt him even more or does she help him?

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)

Karana's interactions with the otter Won-a-nee and the otter's babies inspire Karana to become a pacifist (someone who is against violence). She promises to never again hurt the animals of the island. Why might that be?

I stood facing the rock, with my feet on a narrow ledge and one hand thrust deep into a crack. Over my shoulder I could see the wave coming. It did not come fast, for the other wave was still running out. For a while I thought that it would not come at all because the two suddenly met beyond the sandpit. The first wave was trying to reach the sea and the second one was struggling toward the shore.

Like two giants they crashed against each other. They rose high in the air, bending first one way and then the other. There was a roar as if great spears were breaking in battle, and in the red light of the sun the spray that flew around them looked like blood. (27.11-27.12)

Though she's the only person on the island, Karana still faces violence from the earthquake and the giant waves that followed it. Notice how the waves are described as battling men. What does this say about the violence of nature? Why does the color red appear here?