Where the Crawdads Sing

by Delia Owens
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Where the Crawdads Sing Themes

The main themes in Where the Crawdads Sing are the lasting damage of abandonment, the impact of trauma on relationships, and the constancy of nature in life.

  • The Lasting Damage of Abandonment: After being abandoned by her family, Kya is reluctant to form new relationships and become close to people.
  • The Impact of Trauma: Kya's isolation causes her difficulties in her later romantic relationships.
  • The Constancy of Nature: Nature is at the core of Kya's existence, providing her the materials necessary for survival while also serving as a source of scientific fascination.

Themes

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Last Updated on November 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 524

The Lasting Damage of Abandonment 

When Kya is seven years old, her mother leaves her family in the marshland and takes Kya’s younger siblings with her. Shortly after, Kya’s older siblings also leave to escape their father’s abuse. When Kya is ten, her father leaves her alone in the shack and never returns. This isolation and abandonment eventually leads to her independence. As a preteen, Kya learns how to fend for and sustain herself with the resources in the marsh and the help of Jumpin’ and Mabel. She collects extensive research on the seashells in the Barkley Cove area, which she has published at a young age. Despite her ability to survive on her own, the abandonment Kya experiences as a child will ultimately have negative affects on her romantic relationships and leave her feeling isolated throughout most of the novel.

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The Impact of Trauma on Romantic Relationships 

Kya's sense of love is skewed as a result of her abandonment and her early years living alone, and she believes that she loves both Tate Walker and Chase Andrews. Unfortunately, the kind of love that she finds in these men is inconsistent and echoes the love she received from her family. Chase does not love Kya, and the love he does show is a facade used to coerce her into having sex. He eventually marries another woman, and when Kya refuses his later advancements, he attempts to rape her. 

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On the other hand, it is clear that Tate and Kya have developed a strong bond over the years they’ve known each other. Despite causing Kya pain when he left their friendship behind in order to go to college, Tate proves that he does love Kya, and in the end the two form a close relationship together. Still, Kya is haunted by the lack of familial love in her life, and while she ultimately finds sanctuary in this relationship with Tate, her romantic and familial relationships are nonetheless tainted by abandonment and deception throughout the novel. 

The Constancy of Nature in Human Life

Nature unifies the events of the novel from start to finish. The shack Kya and her family live in is situated in a marsh, and throughout the novel, the characters’ natural surroundings serve as a constant backdrop for the events in their lives. The marshland is a fundamental part of Kya’s survival after she is abandoned by her family, and it becomes a nurturing force both physically and emotionally for the damaged girl. Kya and Tate study this marshland and conduct scientific research on the environment, and Kya submits her research to a publisher with Tate's encouragement. Jodie finds Kya’s book in a store, and this leads him back into her life. It is also in the marshland where Chase's body is found. When Kya and Tate end up together at the end of the novel, they live together in the marsh, where Kya eventually dies peacefully in her boat. In death, Kya is surrounded by the environment that nurtured her throughout her life and is a natural constant long after she is gone.

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