The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Novel Summary:chp13-21

Summary – Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen and Chapter Eighteen

She watches out for ships every day, but still nothing comes in the spring or summer. She does not know what she will do if the Aleuts were to come back and sets about fixing her canoe. She makes it smaller as it had been made for six people originally. She works on it through the summer and Rontu is with her all this time and she talks to him. Until this time she has not realized how lonely she has been before. 


In her re-fashioned canoe, she sails around the island with Rontu and tests it for leaks. It is fine now and she goes into one of the many caves in the canoe and finds a ledge where she can hide the canoe close to the sea outlet to keep it close to hand but hidden. When they go back to Coral Grove, she pulls the canoe on shore out of reach of forthcoming storms. She decides she will move it into the cave in the spring.


The storms come in Chapter Seventeen and she spends her time making another dress and a new spear to catch a giant devil fish she had seen in the cave. She makes one from memory and after many errors she manages it. She uses one of the sea elephant teeth as a spearhead.


With her spear, she goes down to Coral Grove on the first day of spring. She is alone as she let Rontu out earlier because he had whined to be with the other dogs. 


Later on she hears dogs fighting and finds their tracks. She sees them and notices Rontu is in battle with two others and one of them is the new leader. The rest of the pack is there to ‘fall on whichever was beaten’. She could shoot at them with her bow and arrows, but knows they will only fight again another time. Rontu breaks the leg of one of the two dogs. The second one gets Rontu down. Rontu fights back and leaves his opponent lying on the ground. He trots past her and when she reaches home she finds him there. He never leaves her again after this and the wild dogs divide into two packs from this point and do not return to the headland. 


In Chapter Eighteen, Karana narrates how the flowers and birds are ‘plentiful’ on the island that spring. She rears two birds in a cage for company and tames them enough to perch on her arm and beg for food. She cuts their wings and lets them loose in the yard. When their wings grown for a second time, she does not cut them but by now they do not fly further than the ravine and return at night. They ask for food no matter how much they have eaten. She calls them Tainor and Lurai. 


She wears flowers in her hair and this is now long again, down to her waist. She and the other women had cut their hair short after the Aleuts killed their men, but it has since grown back. 

Analysis – Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen and Chapter Eighteen

The bond between Karana and Rontu is emphasized in the descriptions of the two setting off on canoe trips together. This relationship is re-affirmed further when he whines to be let out and returns forever after fighting with the other wild dogs. Loyalty is seen at this point to be a valuable sentiment and is one that both enjoy.


The passing of time is marked in the reference to Karana’s hair. It was shorn at the time of the massacre, and has since grown again down to her waist. In this time, she has been without human company but has learned to adapt to her requirements and environment all the more. By domesticating Rontu and then the birds, she also teaches herself to take pleasure in the company of animals.

Summary – Chapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty and Chapter Twenty One

Chapter Nineteen has a description of Karana collecting abalone and starfish and Rontu spots the devil fish. It is the same one she has been looking for and manages to spear it. The barb is attached to a coil and she attaches this to her wrist. It stretches so she walks to stop the coil snapping. It slackens several times and she tightens it when this happens. It comes up in the shallow water and Rontu tries to catch it. Three of the arms wrap around his neck. She runs over and stabs the devil fish with a knife she has made from whalebone. She tries to then drag it out of the water, but her strength has gone and does not even try to retrieve her canoe. It is night before she and Rontu return home and both are cut from the devil fish. Although she sees two more of these that summer, she does not attempt to catch them.


In Chapter Twenty, it is related that she catches many abalone soon after that day and dries them in the sun. She uses the shells to deter the birds from eating them as they reflect the light. She also catches small fish for the light they give off when dried and is preparing to stock up for winter. 


She also takes Rontu to Black Cave and they spend the night there as the tide starts to rise and blocks the entrance while they are inside it. They are both relieved to leave the next day, and she is particularly pleased as a skeleton of an ancestor was in there too. 


The narrative switches to how she continues to watch out for ships including that of the Aleut. It has been two summers since they last came. One day after hiding the canoe as usual she spots a ship in the far distance. She notices it is coming from the north and not the east where the white men came from. She is not sure if it is an Aleut ship, but packs the things she needs. When she looks for the ship again, she realizes it is close now and takes everything down to the cave. She eradicates the traces of her presence and takes Rontu into the cave and after coaxing him in she blocks the entrance with rocks and sleeps until it is night. 


Alone that night, she climbs out to watch the Aleuts in Chapter Twenty One. Over the days they are there, she and Rontu stay in the cave and go out at night. She makes a skirt from the feathers of the cormorants she caught before the Aleuts arrived. She shows it to Rontu and he jumps up. They both hear something and then see the girl who has come with the hunters. 


The spear is close to hand, but Karana does not take it up at first. Rontu walks slowly towards the girl when she says something and the girl makes a motion as though to say the dog is hers. Karana cries no and picks up the spear. The girl makes another gesture to show the dog is now Karana’s, but Karana continues to hold on to the spear as though she will throw it. 


The girl points to herself and says ‘“Tutok”’ and admires the skirt. Karana forgets herself and holds it up to show her. The girl hold it against her waist and Karana remembers how much she hates the Aleuts and takes it back from her. Tutok looks towards the cave and seems to ask if she lives there. Karana does not trust her and signals that she lives further away on the other end of the island. Tutok leaves and Rontu does not try to follow her. 


Karana packs her things and is ready to move on at nightfall. She plans to take the canoe to the west part of the island and sleep there until the Aleuts leave. She carries five baskets and hides them near her house. She comes back to the cave and senses somebody has been there while she was away and is afraid to enter it. At the entrance to the cave there is a necklace of black stones ‘of a kind I had never seen’.


Analysis – Chapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty and Chapter Twenty One

This latest arrival of the Aleut hunters has understandably frightened Karana as she hides in a cave while they stay on the island. Her retreat to a cave is a measure of her fear, but this also means she is able to meet Tutok alone without the interference of others in the narrative. The gift of the necklace appears to be a peace offering of sorts and Tutok’s kindness also seems to be elemental to her decision to leave Rontu with Karana as he is now her dog.


Prior to the return of the Aleuts, Karana narrates her adventures in fishing and surviving and reminds us again of her resourcefulness. By choosing to fish for the giant devil fish, she is also represented once more as one who is daring and largely willing to attempt the impossible.