How does Karana change throughout the story of the Island of the Blue Dolphins?
As the book progresses, Karana becomes more independent and more skilled at surviving on her own.
When the book opens, Karana is describing live with her village, when she lived as part of a tribe. She is tough, watching her tribe’s interaction with the Aleuts carefully and worrying that they are killing too many otters. Her independent spirit shows in the incident with the Ramo and the ship. She notices that he is not on the ship, and even though the chief tells her the ship will come back for him another day, she jumps off.
Almost as soon as she is alone on the island, Karan begins to make arrangements for surviving on her own, knowing it will be “many suns” before they are rescued.
Quickly I dug a hole for the shellfish, rolled a heavy stone over the opening to protect them from the wild dogs, and started off towards the south part of the island. (Ch. 8)
As Karana spends her time on the island, she has to learn how to live without her tribe. This is more than finding and making shelter, finding food, and minding her brother. She also has to keep predators like the wild dogs away.
I thought about these things for two days and on the third night when the wild dogs returned to the rock, I made up my mind that no matter what befell me I would make the weapons. (Ch. 9)
One day, Ramo is killed. Karana finds him, and knows that the wild dogs have killed him. She vows to kill all of them. This demonstrates another change in her personality, from independent to vengeful. At first she tries to obey the laws of her tribe that a woman cannot make weapons. Then she decides that to protect herself, she needs to forget these laws. This is a sign of her independence.
Eventually, Karana even forgets her vow to kill all of the wild dogs. She befriends Fox Eyes and names him Rontu, and later his son, Rontu-Aru. Karana has developed complete independence, and is alone from human contact. She has overcome the laws and conventions of her people. She has used her intelligence and wisdom to live on her own.