Dolphins Study Guide Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

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The protagonist of a story is the main character, who traditionally, undergoes some sort of change. The protagonist of the story is Karana.


The antagonist of a story is the character that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonists are the Aleuts and the forces of nature. Early in the story, Rontu is an antagonist. At one point in the story, the devilfish is an antagonist.

Rising Action/Falling Action

The rising action is the massacre followed by the rescue of the tribe from the island. The climax is the arrival and hurried departure of a rescue ship followed several years later by its return. The falling action is the nine days that the rescue ship lays anchored in Coral Cove. The outcome is Karana’s rescue.

In the story of Karana and Rontu, the rising action is when the dogs kill Ramo. The climax is when Karana does not kill the wounded dog, Rontu. The falling action is the development of friendship between the two. The outcome is Rontu’s eventual death.

In the story of Karana and the devilfish, the rising action is the first encounter between the two. The climax is the encounter in which the devilfish is killed. The falling action is Karana’s attempt to drag the devilfish out of the water.


The climax of a story is the major turning point that determines the outcome of the plot. It is the point to which the rising action leads. The arrival and quick departure of a ship followed several years later by its return.


Also known as the resolution or denouement, this is the place in the plot where the action is resolved or clarified. The outcome is Karana’s decision not to kill any more devilfish.


Karana’s tribe lives on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. At times they are bothered by Aleuts who come to take otter from the island.

As the story begins, the Aleuts, with a Russian captain, return. They agree to pay the islanders for being allowed to take more otter. But, when it is time to leave, there is a disagreement and a fight. Many of the men on the island are killed. A ship comes to take the tribe to the mainland. At the last moment, as the ship is departing, Karana sees her brother, Ramo, still on shore, jumps into the water and swims for shore. Ramo is soon killed by wild dogs on the island. Karana tried to follow her tribe by using one of the canoes, but has to return to the island because the canoe leaks too badly.

Karana realizes that she will be on the island indefinitely and builds a permanent shelter. She injures the leader of the wild dogs, but does not kill him. Instead, she cares for him until he is healthy. They become friends. The Aleuts return. Karana and an Aleut girl from the ship become friends, but she leaves and Karana is lonelier than she was before the girl arrived. The island endures an earthquake and a tsunami. A rescue ship arrives, but immediately departs, without connecting with Karana, because of bad weather. Several years later the ship returns and rescues her.

Another story woven into the main story is the story of Karana’s relationship with the dog, Rontu. Rontu came from an Aleut ship. He became the leader of the wild dogs on the island. He was their leader when they killed Ramo, Karana’s brother. Karana injured him during a revenge attack on the pack, but did not proceed to kill him. Instead, she cared for him until he was healthy. They became friends. Once he got into a fight with his former pack. Karana wanted to help him, but felt that it would be better not to do so. Rontu lived many years and died of old age. Karana put him to rest in a carefully prepared grave. Later, she befriended another island dog who was obviously his son.

A third story that is woven into the main story, but that is of less importance, is the story of Karana and the devilfish. In their first encounter the devilfish (octopus) used a black liquid to hide himself and get away from Karana. Karana did not give up. She looked forward to the time when she would kill him. She tells us that “Devilfish is the best food in the seas.”

She was occupied with other concerns for a while, but eventually she and Rontu began to search for the devilfish every day. Then, they gave up temporarily. One day, when they were not searching for him, Rontu spotted the devilfish again. Karana tried to catch it, and after a long struggle, she succeeded in killing it. By this time her strength was gone. Her success did not make her happy. That was the last giant devilfish that she killed.


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