page 2 of 2
The following day Karana goes fishing, and when she returns to her house she gives the dog some fish. That night she sleeps on the rock again. The next four days she repeats this process, but on the fourth day the dog is not waiting at her fence as usual. To her surprise, Karana is somewhat disappointed, and begins to call out for the dog. When she enters her house, however, she finds the dog inside. That night she sleeps inside the house and decides to name the dog Rontu, which means Fox Eyes.
In this section Karana creates a second home upon the island. Just as building her first home on the island is a marker of her acknowledgement that Ghalas-at is her home, the creation of this second emergency house indicates a preparation for a long stay on the island. She wants to be ready for anything that might befall her during an extended period if she has to wait a long time for the white men to come.
Karana's decision not to kill Rontu is important because it shows how Karana can be unaware of her own motivations. She has no conscious reasons for not killing the dog. As she says, she has the arrow drawn but "my hand would not let it go." In chapter fourteen, Karana and Rontu are bitter enemies. Karana had vowed to kill all of the wild dogs on the island when they killed her brother, Ramo, but when Rontu's pack hungrily follows Karana as she crawls toward the spring to get water, necessity is added to revenge as a motive for exterminating the dogs. Karana's plan of attack against the wild dogs works perfectly, but when she has the chance to finish Rontu, she doesn't take it. Karana describes her hand as an entity separate from her body, something with a will somehow separate from hers, and this description demonstrates just how difficult her own actions are for her to understand. She speculates that perhaps she did not kill Rontu because he cannot move; "if he had gotten up I would have killed him," she says. It seems, then, that Karana does not kill Rontu because he is helpless. She is unable to kill a defenseless creature, even if it has done her a grievous wrong.
Karana's decision to bring Rontu back to her house is almost as mysterious as her decision not to kill him. At least two different causes could have motivated her action. The first is the pity and compassion she displayed in sparing Ramo's life. Leaving Ramo to die is just about the same as killing him, and perhaps the pity sparked in Karana by Ramo's helplessness compelled her not only to spare him but to help him. A second possible motive is the need for companionship. Karana is alone on the island, and though she has the comfort of knowing she is "home," she still has no one with whom she can interact. She may not have brought Ramo home for the express purpose of making him her friend, but this may have been an implicit intention in the back of her mind, and is revealed by her dismay when she thinks he has left. Karana may have taken care of Ramo for either or both of these reasons, or maybe for some completely unrelated reason. The result, however, is some relief to her loneliness on the island.
Take a Study Break!