The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Top Ten Quotes

Everyone in our tribe had two names, the real one which was secret and was seldom used, and one which was common, for if people use your secret name it becomes worn out and loses its magic. Thus I was known as Won-a-pa-lei, which means The Girl with the Long Black Hair, though my secret name is Karana. My father’s secret name was Chowig. Why he gave it to a stranger I do not know.p. 10 The dangers of trusting the incomers, Captain Orlov and the unnamed Aleuts, is foreshadowed in this reference as Karana explains their belief in the power of naming and of secrecy.

 Looking at his body I knew he should not have told Captain Orlov his secret name, and back in our village all the weeping women and the sad men agreed that this had so weakened him that he had not lived through the fight with the Aleuts and the dishonest Russians.p. 25 The trust shown by her father is seen to have been used as a weapon against him by the hunters. The barbarity of the men is heightened by the abuse of trust and honor.

… the laws of Ghalas-at forbade the making of weapons by women of the tribe.p. 46 Out of necessity, Karana breaks the tribal law and in so doing it is highlighted that her gender does not have to be a barrier from physical activity.

Always before when I returned, I had hoped that he would be gone. But now as I crawled under the fence I did not feel the same.p. 83 At this point, her care for the injured wild dog begins to extend to affection, and she goes on to domesticate him.

I did not know how lonely I had been until I had Rontu to talk to.p. 85 By naming the dog (Rontu), Karana establishes their relationship more fully and accepts that she has a companion.

After that summer, after being friends with Won-a-nee and her young, I never killed another otter.p. 128 Karana also goes on to say that she never kills another cormorant, seal, wild dog or sea elephant as by watching the sea otters so closely she recognizes how humans and birds and animals share many characteristics.

Without them the earth would be an unhappy place.p. 128 The ‘them’ of this quotation refers to animals and birds. Karana explains here how the relationships she forms on the island have colored her perspective of other species, and this is why she is now reluctant to kill them.

It was like another place. I had gone to sleep and wakened on another island.p. 136 The tide is lower than she has ever seen it at this point, and the air is tight. This is immediately prior to the tidal waves and earthquake and her lack of recognition hints at a forthcoming catastrophe.

The sea made no sounds on the shore. The gulls were quiet. The earth seemed to be holding its breath, as though it were waiting for something terrible to happen.p. 138 This reference also alludes to a sense of doom and to something that is about to happen. This is fulfilled a few sentences later when Karana describes the earthquake that strikes the island.

Not until I came to Mission Santa Barbara and met Father Gonzales did I learn from him that this ship had sunk in a great storm soon after it reached his country and that on the whole ocean thereabouts there was no other. For this reason, the white men had not come back for me.p. 147 The mystery as to why Karana has had to live on the island for so long without being rescued is explained at this point.