Island of the Blue Dolphins – Literature – Writing Style

In the novel the landscape, nature and the protagonist´s actions are described in a very detailed manner, whereby the reader´s imagination is particularly enhanced. The beginning of chapter one states this quite accurately: “I remember the day the Aleut ship came to our island. At first it seemed like a small shell afloat on the sea. Then it grew larger and was a gull with folded wings. At last in the rising sun it became what it really was – a red ship with two red sails” (O´Dell 1.) Here we can already see the connection between the protagonist and her natural world: her first inclination when confronted with manmade technology is to compare it to the animals from her daily life, shellfish and birds.
The language is quite neutral, not extremely dramatic. For instance, when Karana goes on a voyage around the island with Rontu and encounters a dangerous devilfish, the situation is described as following: “The devilfish was in front of us, swimming slowly near the surface, moving all his arms at once. Large devilfish are dangerous if you are in the sea, for their arms are so long as a man, and they can quickly wrap them around you. They also have a big mouth and a sharp beak where their arms join their head. This one was the largest I had ever seen“(O´Dell 99.) This neutral description of Karana´s experience reflects her strong character. Dangerous situations could evoke feelings of anxiety and agitation; Karana, however, behaves in a composed manner and is able to explain and describe with care and precision. This suggests her resilience and pragmatism. Moreover, this paragraph evokes the impression of reading a biology lexicon as it presents information about the devilfish in general and describes his appearance.
Another significant example showing Karana´s self-composure is the death of her little brother Ramo: “When I picked him up I knew that he was dead. […] All night I sat there with the body of my brother and did not sleep” (O´Dell 45 f). Here, Karana does not react with an emotional outburst of distress or sadness. Instead, she shows again her composed and resilient fortitude in the face of loss. And while she may not articulate her grief, her careful plans to kill the dogs responsible show how deeply she has been affected. “I thought of how I would do it, but mostly I thought of Ramo, my brother” (O´Dell 46). Here, the author shows the reader the feelings and thoughts of the main character without pointing them out overtly. In this way, her strength is reflected through this form of narration.
The word choice is very accurate and specific to the special setting, the island. The author gives the reader the opportunity to be completely immersed in that world. As already mentioned, the encyclopaedic character of passages referring to the animals and their habitats, as well as vocabulary associated with a more distant, nautical past (“leagues” instead of “miles”) contribute to the seeming authenticity of the narrative. The reader has the distinct impression that he is reading an autobiography or at the very least a true historical account.