Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing

by

Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Delia Owens's Where the Crawdads Sing. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Delia Owens

Born in 1949, Delia Owens grew up in Georgia, where she developed a strong love of nature. As a child, she rode horses and explored the woods, encouraged by her mother to spend time in the wilderness. During this time, Owens developed an early passion for writing, even winning a writing contest in the sixth grade and deciding that she would someday be a professional writer. However, when she went to college at the University of Georgia, she studied zoology instead of English, eventually going on to complete a doctorate in Animal Behavior from the University of California, Davis. After this, Owens and her then-husband moved to Africa, where they worked as wildlife scientists in Botswana. For seven years, they lived in an extremely remote area and studied packs of lions and hyenas, eventually co-writing Cry of the Kalahari, which was a bestseller. After living in Botswana, Owens and her husband moved to Zambia, where they studied elephants and founded a social work program that helped locals survive economically without having to become animal poachers. Over the years, Owens has published her writing about wildlife in a number of scientific journals and has won awards for her research and conservation efforts. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first work of fiction. She currently lives in Idaho.
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Historical Context of Where the Crawdads Sing

As explained in the novel itself, Where the Crawdads Sing takes place in the marshlands of North Carolina, which have an interesting history in terms of settlement and habitation. In the 1500s, the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed the eastern coastline of the United States and claimed the area in the vicinity of present-day North Carolina for France. However, Francis I—the king of France at the time—was unhappy with the area because he was primarily interested in finding gold and silver, along with discovering a passage to the Pacific Ocean through the continent. Shortly thereafter, Spanish explorers tried to settle in the region but ultimately failed. These kinds of attempts continued, though explorers were generally unenthused when they saw the marshlands, which they thought had very little value and wouldn’t make for good settlements. This aversion to the area continued throughout the ensuing centuries, which is why the area in which Kya lives in Where the Crawdads Sing is so sparsely populated. Furthermore, the stigma that Kya experiences because she lives in the marshlands comes from the fact that the region was largely inhabited by former slaves, indentured servants, criminals, and other people who had been ostracized by society.

Other Books Related to Where the Crawdads Sing

Because of its engagement with the theme of independence and self-sufficiency, Where the Crawdads Sing is similar to another work of contemporary fiction, Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Like Where the Crawdads Sing, Before We Were Yours examines what happens when children are abandoned by their parents. Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna, three nonfiction books that Owens co-wrote with her former husband about her experiences as a zoologist. Given that Where the Crawdads Sing engages so deeply with the natural world and animal kingdom, these works are relevant because they demonstrate Owens’s vast knowledge of such matters. In addition, this novel has drawn comparisons to the works of Barbara Kingsolver, whose novels like The Bean Trees and Flight Behavior also closely consider nature and wildlife.
Key Facts about Where the Crawdads Sing
  • Full Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
  • When Published: August 14, 2018
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Coming of Age Novel (Bildungsroman)
  • Setting: The coastal marshes of North Carolina
  • Climax: After Kya’s death, Tate discovers that Kya murdered Chase and got away with it.
  • Antagonist: Chase Andrews

Extra Credit for Where the Crawdads Sing

Motherly Advice. When Delia Owens was a child, her mother used to encourage her to spend as much time as possible exploring nature, urging her to go way out to “where the crawdads sing”—something that Kya’s mother also tells her in the novel.

Off-Grid. Owens is familiar with the kind of isolation that Kya experiences in Where the Crawdads Sing. When she was working in Africa with her ex-husband, she lived in an area in the wilderness that was as big as Ireland and in which there weren’t any other humans except for several nomadic tribes who roamed the region.