Karana destroys the village because it reminds her "of all the people who (are) dead and those who (are) gone". She burns it down so that she will no longer hear "their voices speaking", and so that she can move on.
All the members of her tribe had gone away on a ship with the white men. Karana had been on board with them, and the ship had been sailing away, but then she had noticed that her little brother Ramo had been left behind, and she had leapt overboard to stay with him. The two had lived at the village alone for awhile, but since Ramo had been killed by wild dogs, Karana is completely alone on the island. She stays at the village until all of the abalones stored there are gone, then realizes how the fog "(creeping) in and out of the empty huts...(makes) shapes as it drift(s)". The shapes remind her of all the people who used to live there with her but who now are gone.
Karana sits and sees the shapes and hears the voices for a long time, then she decides that she will never live in the village again. She makes a fire against the wall of her house; when her house has burned to the ground, she does the same to another one. One by one, she destroys all of the houses, "so that there (are) only ashes left to mark the village of Ghalas-at".
Karana takes only one basket of food away with her. She travels quickly, and by nightfall arrives at the place where she has decided to stay until the ship should return for her, a place with a large rock "on a headland a half league to the west of Coral Cove" (Chapter 9).