102 pages 3 hours read

Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Themes

Coming of Age and Womanhood

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens tells the life story of Kya from girlhood to the end of her life. Owens structures the story of Kya’s life using several conventionally important rites of passage in female coming of age narratives. In the novel, significant traumas deform these events, leading to Kya’s unusual adulthood.

Traditionally, rites of passage for female characters include falling in love, making love for the first time, getting her first period, establishing friendships with other women, and establishing an adult identity while coping with gendered expectations. Kya achieves some of these milestones but generally in ways that emphasize her difference and isolation from other women.

Kya falls in love with Tate Walker, but has no guidance about this experience. Her mother’s abandonment of the family after a violent attack from Kya’s father, the central traumatic event of her life, has left Kya to understand love on her own. She draws conclusions about it by watching animal life in the marsh, reading her mother’s old books and, later, biology textbooks.

Kya’s understanding of sexual intercourse also comes from watching animals mate, so she has a limited idea of sex as an important physical act associated with romantic love.

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