Island of the Blue Dolphins

Island of the Blue Dolphins Summary and Analysis of Chapters 23-26


Chapter 23

After the Aleuts leave, Karana notices that they have left behind many wounded otter. She adopts a young one with a wound on its back, bringing it live fish to eat while it nurses in a tide pool. Eventually, the otter’s wound heals and Karana names him Mon-a-nee, which means "Little Boy with Large Eyes."

That winter is one of the most difficult Karana has faced. The high waves make it difficult for her to fish, to the point that she cannot feed Mon-a-nee for three days. When she finally catches something to bring to him, she is sad to find that he has left the pool and gone to live with the other otters.

Karana’s food stores are dangerously depleted because the Aleuts took her abalone stores, meaning she has no food saved up for the winter. They also interfered with her fishing schedule, so she does not have extra smelts – the small, flammable fish – to use for kindling.

Despite these obstacles, Karana and Rontu manage to survive the winter. She even finds time to make earrings to match the necklace that Tutok gave her. She often thinks of Tutok, and misses her friend greatly.

Chapter 24

Karana’s pet birds, Tainor and Lurai, build a nest and lay eggs. She tames their baby birds in the same way she tamed them. Karana then gets yet another pet when she rescues a gull with a broken leg. Although her little shelter now bustles with activity, she still misses human companionship. One day, Mon-a-nee swims up to her as she fishes. Karana feeds him a fish, and continues to see him periodically as she hunts for abalone.

A few months later, Karana discovers that Mon-a-nee is feeding the fish she gives him to some baby otters that follow him everywhere. She then realizes that Mon-a-nee is actually a girl, and that these smaller otters are her daughters. She renames the otter Won-a-nee, which means “Girl with Large Eyes,” and befriends the otter's offspring.

Eventually, Karana becomes so friendly with the otters that she cannot bear to kill any of them. From that point onwards, she stops hunting all animals, and lives only on fish.

Chapter 25

Although Karana fondly remembers her time with Tutok, she still fears the Aleuts and makes more weapons in case they return. However, they never do. Years go by, and eventually even the otter forget about the Aleuts, no longer hiding in the summer.

One summer, Rontu returns to the cave where he used to live with his pack. Karana tracks him there, and notices that he is very weak, hardly breathing. She carries him to the cliffside, hoping that he will revive himself when he sees the gulls he always liked to chase. However, he dies. Devastated, Karana gives him a beautiful burial.

After Rontu’s death, she stops keeping track of how long she has been on the island.

Chapter 26

Karana mourns Rontu for a long time, but eventually starts to think about taming another dog. She notices that one of the dogs in the wild pack looks like Rontu, and wonders whether it might be his son. She makes many attempts to catch him with snares, but only succeeds in catching a fox – whom she learns is too much of a thief to make a good pet.

Eventually, Karana has the idea to knock the dog out using an herb. She concocts a solution of tobacco and ground-up seashells, and leaves it out for the dogs. The whole pack drinks it and falls asleep, and Karana manages to successfully capture the dog she wants. She tames him back at her house, and names him Rontu-Aru, which means Son of Rontu.

They have many happy times together, but Karana still thinks of Ulape and Tutok every day.


After Tutok and the Aleuts depart, Karana is once again alone on the island. Her brief friendship with the Aluet girl reminds her how much she misses human companionship, and she tries to resolve her painful loneliness by befriending more animals. In these chapters, she adopts a gull, some chicks, an otter, and another dog after Rontu dies. This is just one of many ways Karana tries to keep herself emotionally healthy. Earlier in the book, she stayed happy by dressing beautifully and by giving herself long-term goals. Here, she purposely seeks out pets in an attempt to quell her loneliness.

For the first time in the novel, Karana begins to see her animal friends as human. This change occurs when Won-a-nee (formerly Mon-a-nee) gives birth to baby otters. After months of playing with them, Karana recognizes their fun-loving personalities, and becomes as attached to them as she once was to her friends in the village. The otter teach Karana that even though animals do not look or act like humans, they are still living beings worthy of respect. In deciding not to hunt unnecessarily, she chooses to prioritize animal life over her own happiness. For example, she will not longer kill birds to make skirts. She is not only becoming more mature and compassionate, but is also recognizing her connection to nature more fully. Now no longer attached to humans at all, she is accepting her place as an equal in nature, and not necessarily a superior over it.

These chapters also show how much Karana has distanced herself from her tribe’s culture. She mentions that her family would laugh at her decision to quit hunting, but she strongly believes it is the right thing and does it anyway. This is very different from the moment early in the novel when Karana is reluctant to make weapons for herself. When she is first marooned, Karana is terrified of the consequences that will befall her if she breaks the tribe’s rules, and she does her best to adhere to her culture’s values. Even when she breaks the weapon-making rule, it is for the sake of survival. Here, she makes a decision that does not impact her survival, but instead reflects her own personal values, which are now quite distinct from those of the tribe.

Karana’s reaction to Rontu’s death is another example of how she has changed over time. As mentioned above, Karana has come to respect animals as equals. But her relationship with Rontu is deeper and more complex than any other relationship in the book. Although Karana sees Rontu as her enemy when she is first marooned, she comes to love him. When he dies, she buries him in a beautiful grave, with as much ceremony as she would give to a human. But although she has come to love Rontu deeply, she still respects his freedom as a wild animal – she does not intervene when he fights with the other dogs, and she allows him the freedom to leave when he wants to hide in the cave.

From the beginning, Rontu has functioned as a symbolic counterpoint to Karana herself. Arguably, she initially helps him because his solitude and self-reliance remind her of herself. They have obviously grown together, and so his death is a painful reminder of how much she is at the mercy of nature. In burying him, she is confronting her own mortality. And yet she reminds us of her incredible resolve when she pushes forward anyway, finding a new dog. She does not forget what has come before, but refuses to stop moving forward.

In the same way, Karana still misses her family greatly despite their long absence. In these chapters, she often thinks about Tutok and about her older sister, Ulape. She also mentions for the first time that she had once hoped to have children. Karana stops keeping track of time after Rontu dies, but we can tell that many years have passed because Karana has started to see herself as an adult. Rather than identifying with six-year-old Ramo, as she did when she was first marooned, she now feels closer to her older sister Ulape, who was preparing to marry when the tribe left the island. Karana also recognizes that Ulape probably has a large family by this point, and that she herself is getting close to child-bearing age. Karana has already lost much of her childhood because of her unusual situation, and now she faces the prospect of a solitary adulthood.