The Island of the Blue Dolphins: Metaphor Analysis
Hunting of animals
The wanton destruction of animals and the greed of supply and demand are queried in the devastation brought about by Captain Orlov and the Aleuts. Karana’s decision to refrain from killing any more animals unnecessarily is in keeping with the way this novel challenges the inhumanity of cruelty.
Hunting is seen to be associated with devastation of the landscape and ecosystem and is metaphorically connected to colonialism and the sweeping of the way of older customs and traditions. The more considerate culture of Karana’s village is sacrificed for capitalism, in the trading of sea otter pelts, and murder.
The domestication of Rontu symbolizes Karana’s need for companionship, and also highlights how alone she has been until this point. He represents the gains that can be made from human interaction with animals and is also a reminder of how humans and animals might benefit from each other, rather than humans only exploiting animals for their own desires.
It is a custom of Karana’s tribe to not reveal the secret name of a person. The danger of giving it away is embedded in the idea that a person is weakened if it is used too much.
In turn, when Karana tells Tutok her secret name, she reveals her trust of Tutok just as her father trusted Captain Orlov when he gave him his name. In the latter case, the trust was seen to be exploited by the intruder and the laws of secrecy were re-affirmed. By telling Tutok her secret name, Karana learns to trust another once more.