Karana, the main character of the story, exhibits extraordinary courage and resourcefulness during her years alone on the island. The characters who make up her family appear only in the story's beginning and are presented with no real depth: her father, Chowig, is the dignified, wise chief of the village; her older sister, Ulape, is intelligent, but more flirtatious than Karana; her brother, Ramo, is an endearing mixture of pride, ingenuity, and mischief.
The narrative focuses on Karana's mental and emotional reactions to her predicament. Initially, she experiences a sense of loss—the loss of loved ones, of the security of a social structure, of reliable sources of sustenance. Through her ordeal, Karana gradually achieves a sense of self-reliance and acquires a degree of order. The need for some kind of community leads the girl to form a "family," by rescuing and taming wild creatures: an orphaned otter, two birds, and, most significantly, the wild dog that she initially sought to destroy in revenge for its pack having killed her brother. She names the dog Rontu, and he becomes her friend and protector.
Karana's growing aversion to unnecessary killing develops the theme of community. She chooses to rescue and domesticate the otter—a gesture of protest against the Aleuts and Russians who come from the north to massacre the otters for their fur—and decides not to shoot an arrow at a sea lion that could provide her with ivory needed for...
(The entire section is 583 words.)