The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Novel Summary: Chapter 27 - 29
Summary – Chapter Twenty Seven, Chapter Twenty Eight and Chapter Twenty Nine
One hot day she goes out alone in her canoe. Back on land, she puts pitch on it to protect it and turns it over to sleep under it. She is woken by a sound that she first thinks is a thunderbolt, but looks out and sees there are no clouds in the sky. She jumps to her feet and notices the tide is lower than she has ever seen it. She also notices the air is tight and there is a sucking sound, as though a giant animal is sucking its teeth.
At this time, she also sees a ‘great white crest’ heading towards the island. She realizes it is the sea and runs in terror. She drags herself up the rocks and the crest of the wave passes under her and roars on towards Coral Grove. A second wave comes and she cannot climb any higher. She manages to hold on and afterwards all is quiet. She spends the night at the foot of the cliff and in the morning she sees dead fish and crabs everywhere.
When she gets home, Rontu-Aru is waiting for her and does not let her out of his sight. The waves had not reached here as this land is higher and feels safer, but everything still seems strange to her. The sea makes no sounds, for example.
At dusk, she walks back from the spring with Rontu-Aru and the earth begins to move slowly. There are waves of earth and she falls after trying to run. She and Rontu-Aru get up and run again towards the headland. They reach it and go into the house and lie there all night as the earth continues to tremble. In the morning, the earth is quiet again and there is a fresh wind from the northern sea.
In Chapter Twenty Eight, the spring continues once more a few days after the earthquake, but all her weapons stored in the cave and a canoe have been swept away. She searches for wreckage and finds parts of the canoe and uses these and other planks to build a new one.
While collecting dry seaweed to make a fire and to help put the canoe together with a form of pitch, she notices a sail in the east. It is not the Aleuts or the ship of the white men who came before and she wonders why it is coming here, and if she should hide or not. She crouches as she watches and sees it move into Coral Grove. Two men lower themselves in a canoe and paddle ashore. One gets out and after a while he shouts and she knows he has seen her fire and canoe. She goes to her home and puts on her cape and takes her skirt, box and jewelry. She sets off for Coral Grove with Rontu-Aru. As she passes the mound her ancestors had camped on she thinks of them. She also thinks of how she wishes to be where other people are, to hear voices and laughter.
She reaches the place where her fire had been and follows the man’s footsteps. She raises her hands and shouts when she sees they are leaving and runs down to the beach, but the men do not see her. She wades out and waves her arms and the ship moves slowly away into the mist. It goes south and she stands there until it is out of sight.
In Chapter Twenty Nine, the ship comes back after ‘two more springs’. It anchors on Coral Grove and she watches from the headland as the men make a camp on the shore. She does not sleep all night and thinks of the man ‘who had once called for me’. She has thought of this moment for a long time and has looked out every day for the ship’s return.
In the morning, she puts on her cape, skirt and jewelry and with blue clay she makes the mark of her tribe across her nose. She also makes herself smile by putting the marks of being unmarried on her face as her sister did when she left the island. She goes back to her house and makes food. She gives this to Rontu-Aru and tells him they are going away.
Three white men come to her when they see the smoke from her fire and one of them is wearing a long grey robe. The man in the robe wears necklace with ‘an ornament of polished wood’ at the end and makes the sign of this with his hand. He speaks to her and she does not understand, but the sound of a human voice is ‘sweet’ to her. She goes to the beach with them and knows the man tells the other two to make her a dress as this is what they do.
They make it from trousers and one of them cuts and sews the pieces that afternoon. She smiles as though she likes it, but does not really and puts her skirt in one of her baskets to wear when she is across the sea.
The ship stays for nine days. They have come for the otter, but the otter have gone and Karana thinks there are perhaps some who remember the Aleuts after all.
She asks about the ship that came years ago, which took her people away, but they do not understand her. It is not until she comes to the Mission Santa Barbara that she learns from Father Gonzales about what happened. That ship had sunk in ‘a great storm’ and that is why nobody came back for her.
They sail on the tenth day and she watches the island as they move away and remembers Rontu and Won-a-nee and the little red fox. The dolphins swim with the ship for many leagues, and the birds chirp in their cage as Rontu-Aru sits beside her.
Analysis – Chapter Twenty Seven, Chapter Twenty Eight and Chapter Twenty Nine
We learn in the final chapter that nobody has come back for Karana from the original ship that came for the villagers as this was sunk in a storm. This solves the mystery as to why she has spent so many years alone, and also highlights how her misfortune has also saved her.
There are only hints to her future life as she recounts how she learns the fate of the earlier ship at the Mission, and one of the men who finds her on the island is evidently a priest. A new life of once more conforming to a patriarchal society are suggested in these points and, more obviously, in the priest signalling to the other two men that a dress should be made for her. Because of this action, Karana’s departure from the island might be compared figuratively to Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eve as she too is taught to be ashamed of revealing her body.