The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Novel Summary:chp5-8

Summary – Chapter Five and Chapter Six

The time of the massacre is ‘the most terrible time in all the memory of Ghalas-at’. Before the battle, there were 42 men on the island and by that night there are only 15 and seven of them are old men. 


The storm lasts two days and on the third day they bury the dead of the village and burn the bodies of the Aleut men. They are quiet for many days and some wish to leave. They hold a council and it is decided they will stay on this island. A new chief is chosen and he is called Kimki. He is very old and is also described as a good man and a good hunter in his youth. 


Kimki calls them together and says the women must take the place of the men who are gone, and take up hunting and building canoes and face dangers. Those who shirk will be punished as ‘“without the help of all, all must perish”’. They are all given jobs and Karana and Ulape have to collect abalones. They also cut them from their shell and leave them to dry in the sun. Ramo has to guard them from gulls and wild dogs. The women work hard catching fish and birds, and work so hard ‘that we really fared better than before when the hunting was done by the men’. 


The men say the women have taken over their tasks and now look down on them. Kimki divides the work again, so men are hunting and women harvesting, in order to calm the trouble. 


This is not ‘the real reason’ why it is unpeaceful, though; it is because ‘those who had died at Coral Grove were still with us’. When food is stored in the autumn, there is more time to think of the dead ‘so that a sort of sickness came over the village and people sat and did not speak, nor ever laughed’. Kimki calls them together again in the spring and says he has decided to take a canoe and go east to a country he had been to as a boy. It is many days away and he means to go there alone and set up a place for them. He sets off on a fair day with food and water and they all wave him off. 


In Chapter Six, they watch out every day for Kimki’s return but spring comes and goes without him there. Matasaip, who has taken Kimki’s place in his absence, says they must be concerned about the chance of the Aleuts returning and plans are made to flee if their ships are sighted as they do not have enough men to fight them. 


One night, a man on watch sees a ship and they all take what they can and file down the trail to the canoes. On the way, the man catches up with them and says the ship is smaller than the one used by the Aleuts and has white sails not red. Matasaip goes to the ship when it lands and sends a message to the villagers that these are not the enemy Aleuts but white men. They have come from the place where Kimki is and he has sent them here. They have come to take them away there.


Analysis – Chapter Five and Chapter Six

The gender divisions of the village are referred to here as once many of the healthy men have been killed the women are asked to work in roles they are usually barred from. The gendered division of labor, which patriarchy thrives on as it dictates the inferiority of women, is questioned when the women demonstrate how capable they are of hunting. This has parallels in the 20th century when women in Britain, for example, were called up to fill the roles in industry and agriculture that were made vacant with men being called up to fight. 


By being able to fulfil the new roles, the women demonstrate that the gendered division of labor is based on power rather than fact. That is, they show they are at least as capable as their male counterparts and so show they are equal to men. As this novel has such an independent female narrator, and because of these references to women being successful in taking over the traditional roles allotted to men, it is possible to see a feminist influence in this work. O’Dell criticizes the stereotype of the weak feminine woman and depicts instead a strong young woman who learns to be resourceful and self-sufficient.

Summary – Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight

They pack their baskets and a wind is blowing so they have to hurry. At the cove, there are two boats to take them to the ship. They get on and the ship begins to leave. It is at this point that Karana realizes Ramo is not there and she looks to the island. She sees him and knows he has disobeyed her. He has gone back for his spear when she told him not to. 


Karana insists they turn back, but Matasaip says no and that the ship will come back for Ramo another day. He also says there is enough food and drink for him. When she fully understands the ship will not go back, she flings herself into the sea and swims to the shore. She reaches Ramo and looks back to see the ship has disappeared. 


Karana and Ramo shelter in the rocks until the wind dies down, in Chapter Eight. When they reach the village huts, they see dozens of wild dogs ‘scurrying about’ and they snarl and run away on their arrival.


The next day they gather wood and she collects gulls’ eggs and he catches some fish. On another day, he wonders if the ship will return and she says it will eventually. He says he does not care if they stay there and he explains he prefers it with just her and it is more fun. He also says he has taken their father’s place and is now Chief of Ghalas-at. She reminds him he will have to have the initiation ceremony of the rites of manhood, and be whipped with nettles and tied to red-ant hill. He grows pale and she relents and thinks how young he still is, a little boy ‘with thin arms and legs like sticks’. He re-names himself Chief Tanyositlopai.


She wakes the next morning and realizes he has gone alone to the hidden canoes as he intended to bring one round to the shore. She is worried and sets off to stop him, but on the way she thinks how he must learn to be a man more quickly than other boys as they are alone. She decides instead to go to the beach to greet him when he reaches there. While she waits, she collects mussels, but when he does not appear by midday she begins to worry and returns to the huts.


There is a distant sound of the wild dogs barking and she sets off in that direction. She finds the pack near the cliff and they are moving round in a circle. Ramo is lying in the middle on his back and he has a deep wound to his throat. He is very still. She picks him up and knows he is dead. There are other wounds on his body from the dogs’ teeth and she can tell he has been dead for a long time. From his footsteps, she is able to see he never reached the cliff. Two of the dogs are on the ground and one of them has Ramo’s broken spear in his side. 


She carries Ramo home to the village and the dogs follow her. They trot off when she comes out of the hut with a big club. The leader with yellow eyes is the last to go. She follows them across two hills and sees them go into a cave. The mouth is too large to fill with rocks and she wants to make a fire with the idea of pushing it into the cave, but there is not enough brush to do this and returns home. She sits with Ramo all night and does not sleep. She vows she will kill the dogs one day. 


Analysis – Chapter Seven and Chapter Eight

The narrative takes a further dramatic turn when Karana finds Ramo dead. The perils of the island are made apparent and her vow to kill the wild dogs marks her as resilient and brave. She is characterized here as invincible and powerful, and so becomes the heroine as well as narrator as she refuses to be beaten by the prevailing circumstances. Her earlier decision to return for Ramo once the ship had set sail is in keeping with this and it is through her bravery that she comes to find herself alone.


The divisions of gender also arise again in these chapters. Although it is referred to as light relief when Ramo decides to call himself the chief of the village, as the only male, it is an aspect of their society that he would expect this to happen. The children have been raised to expect a man to be the main figure of authority and Ramo’s decision to re-name himself is narrated as both a joke and as a point that has an element of truth.