In "Island of the Blue Dolphins," Chapter 9, why did Karana burn the village instead of trying to salvage some things?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are presumably a number of reasons Karana decides to burn the village without salvaging anything. First, all her fellow villagers have already left the island. Karana is the only inhabitant left because she jumped off the ship when she realized that her brother had been left behind.

After her brother is killed by a pack of wild dogs, Karana grieves for him. She does not sleep on the night of his death, choosing instead to sit up with his body. Karana is now alone, and the empty village only reminds her that everyone else has departed. All she has left are her memories of 'all the people who were dead and those who were gone.' So, Karana burns down the village so that the desolate image of the empty huts will not haunt her consciousness.

Second, the death of her brother, Ramo, has left her considerably shaken. In the chapter, Karana carries the body of her dead brother back to the village and lays it down in their hut. The story does not provide any details about a possible burial, so there is a strong implication that his body may have burned up in the fire Karana starts in the hut. Karana's act of burning up her entire village is possibly an act of catharsis. She knows that she must live somewhere else if she is to keep her courage and her sanity after the tragedies she has experienced.

Third, Karana's move to the west of Coral Cove is telling. She is making a break from her past and is forging a future which hopefully involves a rescue by a returning ship. Karana's new home is within sight of the harbor and the ocean, allowing her to look out for signs of any ships that approach. In light of this, the sense of finality the fire occasions becomes even more significant. Karana salvages nothing from her past life. She has lost her father and her brother; the ship has left her behind. The most important people in her life have either left or died; material possessions will never take the place of all she has lost.

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Island of the Blue Dolphins

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