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102 pages 3 hours read

Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Symbols & Motifs

The Marsh

The marshes around Barkley Cove are the primary setting for the novel and represent Kya’s relationship with nature. At the start of the novel, Owens describes the marsh as “a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky” (3). This nurturing image inspires young Kya’s sense of nature as a benevolent force, especially since it hides her from outsiders and serves as a source of food and shelter.

Kya’s changing perspective on the marsh reflects her experiences and maturation into adulthood. As an adolescent and young woman, Kya sees the marsh as a source of lessons about animal reproductive strategies. While the marsh is beautiful, the rapidity with which life is taken shows the indifference and amorality of nature. To outsiders, especially people from the town, this amorality marks the marsh and its residents as uncivilized.

The Swamp

The swamp represents the darker, more dangerous aspect of nature in the novel. In the swamp, “[l]ife decays and reeks and returns to the rotted duff: a poignant wallow of death begetting life” (3). For Kya, the swamp is where she decides to apply the natural law of killed or be killed to her situation with Chase.

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