Olive's Ocean Themes

Kevin Henkes
This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Olive's Ocean.
This section contains 715 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)

Coming of Age

In many cases, this is the typical coming of age story. Martha is an intelligent girl but death has not personally touched her life until the summer Olive dies. Even then, Martha is able to keep some distance because she and Olive are little more than acquaintances. But as Martha learns about Olive's life and her hopes and dreams, she comes to realize that the two girls have a great deal in common. With that knowledge comes the understanding that Martha, like Olive, is mortal and could die. This realization prompts an emerging maturity that might otherwise have been delayed. As Martha moves into this understanding, she also comes to realize that her grandmother is also mortal. Martha knows that any of her visits with her grandmother could be the last. With this realization, she decides that she's going to spend Christmas with Godbee as well, though it's not something that her family does and she knows she'll have to sell her parents on the idea. Her decision that she's going to visit Godbee is another sign of her emerging maturity in that she doesn't plan to ask her parents for permission but has made up her mind and intends to convince them that they have to allow it.


Martha, at twelve, knows that people die but comes to a greater understanding over the course of the book about mortality. This knowledge seems to come as a culmination of several experiences beginning with receiving Olive's journal. Martha had been aware of Olive's death at the time it happened and had realized that it was final, but the situation doesn't really impact her until after Olive's mother shares Olive's thoughts. It's only then that Martha thinks about Olive as something other than a quiet girl with too few friends. Soon after Martha arrives at her grandmother's house for their summer vacation, she realizes that her grandmother is also mortal, and that she could die at any time. Despite this understanding, Martha doesn't realize until later that this is true of everyone. When Martha falls into the water on the beach and almost drowns, she's faced with her own mortality. While she's in the water, she fights to get back to the surface. As she's battling the pull of the water, she suddenly realizes that she might drown. That understanding brings her to a better grasp of mortality. With this understanding comes a sense of responsibility. Martha wants to spend as much time as possible with her grandmother because she realizes that it really could be their final summer together. She also makes plans to return for a visit at Christmas and plans to "keep an eye" on Godbee for that time.

The Importance of Family

Martha is very close to her grandmother and her little sister but her relationship with her older brothers and her parents are sometimes strained. Despite this strain, she understands the importance of those family connections. Her mother reminds her of that when it's obvious that Martha and Vince have been arguing. Alice tells Martha that someday, Vince and Lucy "will be your family," indicating that Martha will depend on them when their parents are gone. Martha and Vince share a strong bond though that bond is being tested as they grow older. When Martha is wronged by Jimmy Manning, Vince tries to avoid telling her what he knows. When Martha won't let him, Vince admits that he knows about the bet and the kiss. But later, when someone mentions Jimmy's name, Vince makes a rude comment about Jimmy. It's obvious that Vince is referring to how Jimmy treated Martha. Later, Vince spends more time with the family and when her parents haven't figured out that there was a problem with Jimmy, Vince comments that they are behind on their information. This is more evidence of the bond between Vince and Martha. Martha's bond with Lucy is also strong and Martha seems unaware that her actions toward her little sister are important until Alice points it out, saying that Martha is very kind to Lucy. The most important of the bonds is Martha's relationship with her grandmother. She feels such a strong connection that she's upset when she comes to realize that her grandmother will someday die.

This section contains 715 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Olive's Ocean from BookRags. (c)2017 BookRags, Inc. All rights reserved.
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