Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing Characters

The main characters of Where the Crawdads Sing are Kya Clark, Tate Walker, and Chase Andrews.

  • Kya is the novel's protagonist. Left to fend for herself in the marshes of North Carolina, Kya grows into a self-sufficient woman with a love of nature. She is shunned by the town and eventually accused of murder.
  • Tate is a young boy from town who befriends Kya. He teaches her to read and they develop a romantic relationship. Though Tate eventually leaves Kya to go to college, he can't forget about her.
  • Chase's suspicious death leads to Kya's arrest once investigators uncover their turbulent romantic past.


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Last Updated on June 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 719

Catherine “Kya” Clark

Kya is the protagonist of the Where the Crawdads Sing. Abandoned by her family by the age of ten, Kya—with help along the way from Tate, Jumpin’, and Mabel—essentially raises herself in the marshes of North Carolina, learning to survive off the natural resources of the marsh. This early abandonment makes Kya independent and self-sufficient, but it also leads her to mistrust others and hinders her ability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Kya does not attend the local school and is ostracized by most of the townspeople, who know her as “The Marsh Girl.” Her largely reclusive lifestyle is interrupted by Tate, who slowly befriends Kya and gains her trust. The two eventually develop a romantic relationship, and Kya is hurt when Tate leaves her behind to go to college—a departure that reminds her of how her family abandoned her. After Tate, Kya becomes romantically involved with Chase, though he treats her poorly and lies to her. When Chase is found dead, Kya is accused of his murder, though she is found not guilty after a trial. Despite her lack of formal education, Kya is very intelligent and is fascinated by the biology of the marsh, eventually becoming an expert on the wildlife of the area. She is also a fan of poetry, and is later revealed to be an accomplished poet herself. After the trial, Kya resumes her relationship with Tate and publishes several books based on her research of the marsh.

Tate Walker

Tate is a childhood friend of Kya’s brother Jodie and begins a friendship with Kya after she is abandoned by her family. Tate is a friend and mentor to Kya through their adolescent years, teaching her to read and encouraging her love of science. As teenagers, they become romantically involved, but their relationship ends when Tate leaves to go to college, leaving Kya feeling betrayed and left behind. Unbeknownst to Kya—who thinks Tate has abandoned her—Tate continues to think of her often, agonizing over his decision to leave her. Tate eventually earns a PhD and returns to the marsh, helping to publish Kya's research and supporting her during the trial. After Kya is acquitted of Chase’s murder, Kya and Tate declare their love for each other, and the two go on to live together in the marsh. 

Chase Andrews

Chase is the son of a prominent family in town. He is drawn to Kya's physical beauty, and his motives in pursuing her are questionable; Tate warns Kya that Chase is dishonest and has bad intentions. In their adolescence, Chase tells Kya that he wants to marry her, and the two have sex in a motel. Later, Kya sees him in town with another woman and finds out by reading the paper that Chase is actually engaged to this woman. After Kya leaves him, Chase attempts to rape Kya and is later found dead; in fact, the discovery of his body at the base of a fire tower opens the novel. Kya is accused of his murder, but she is found not guilty. At the end of the novel, it is revealed that Kya is the murderer when Tate finds Chase’s shell necklace among her possessions after her death. 

Jumpin’ and Mabel

Jumpin’ and Mabel are an African American couple who own a gas station for boats. They take pity on young Kya and help her by trading gas for the shellfish she collects and donating hand-me-down clothing and supplies. The couple develops a very close relationship with Kya, becoming almost like adoptive parents to her.

Jodie Clark

Jodie is Kya’s...

(This entire section contains 719 words.)

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older brother and a childhood friend of Tate’s. It is the boys’ preexisting friendship that initially connects Kya and Tate. Years after Jodie leaves home with the rest of Kya’s siblings, he sees Kya’s published research on the marsh in a bookstore and decides to visit his sister.


Pa is Kya’s alcoholic and abusive father. After he is left behind by his wife and other children, he abandons Kya to fend for herself in the marsh.


Ma is Kya’s mother, who abandons the family early in Kya’s childhood. Years later, when Jodie visits Kya, he brings paintings of their childhood that Ma created from memory.