Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell could be compared to Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe. However, the former features a heroine who chooses to stay on a deserted island for her brother’s sake, an intriguing variation on being shipwrecked on such an island.
A battle between foreign hunters and the natives leaves the island tribe decimated. When the remaining villagers decide to leave the Island of the Blue Dolphins, a.k.a. San Nicolas Island, a young girl named Karana and her brother are left behind. Eventually, Karana is living alone on the island due to tragic circumstances. While waiting for a ship to return and rescue her from her solitary life, Karana is forced to survive using her own skills and ingenuity. O’Dell is excellent at portraying the loneliness of Karana’s seclusion from humanity. Although she mistrusts humans on account of memories of past betrayal, Karana is constantly tormented by her need for human companionship and her familiarity with the natural life she has adapted to. She struggles to overcome every problem that the island bestows, but she learns to forget the past and dwell only in the present.
The incineration of the village huts is one act that helps Karana to put the “ghosts” of her people to rest. The author also vividly demonstrates how any person in Karana’s position could deal with the necessity of inventing tools, finding shelter, and accumulating a decent food supply in such an environment. Always hoping and wondering if the rest of her people outlived the sea voyage that took them away, Karana still longs to be reunited with her family. Her desire to belong somewhere and to finally find a home reflects on the novel’s theme. As much as Karana wants to leave the Island of the Blue Dolphins forever, she must accept that it is and always will be her true home, despite the lack of her past tribe and the overwhelming force of her present desertion. Is it really people that she seeks or the restoration of her village before it was destroyed by invading outsiders? Island of the Blue Dolphins is a safe haven for every reader in order that he/she may visit San Nicolas Island and experience Karana’s poignant story and her determined endurance of human hardships.
Original review: Scott O’Dell introduces the female ‘Robinson Crusoe’ of San Nicolas Island, Examiner.com