Kya, from Where the Crawdads Sing, super imposed over swamp image.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Delves Into the Harmful Impacts Prejudice Has on Society

Based on the recent trailer, the film adaptation of the bestselling novel promises to deliver drama and a moving message.

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Kya, from Where the Crawdads Sing, super imposed over swamp image.
Illustration by Laura Chan-Sing, Ryerson University

Based on the recent trailer, the film adaptation of the bestselling novel promises to deliver drama and a moving message.

If the recent trailer for “Where the Crawdads Sing” is any indication, viewers are in for a treat this July. “Where the Crawdads Sing,” the bestselling novel written by Delia Owens, was published in 2018. The novel was commended for its beautiful descriptions of nature, exciting plot and profound messages about prejudice and the people society labels as outsiders. Set in North Carolina, “Where the Crawdads Sing” follows the life of Kya, a girl who grew up in the marsh on her own. Her mother abandoned her family when she was six and all her older siblings left, leaving her at home with their abusive, alcoholic father.

One day, her father goes out, but never comes back, leaving Kya on her own to fend for herself. Kya becomes self-sufficient, learning to get food, money and gas for her boat with help from the kind gas station owner and his wife. As the years go by, Kya is involved in two brief relationships — one with Tate Walker, a former friend of her brother, and another with Chase Andrews, the town’s player. The conflict of the novel arises when Chase turns up dead under a fire tower.

The police rule his death a homicide on account of the lack of footprints or fingerprints by the tower. Several discoveries are made by the police — the necklace Chase wore the night before is missing, there are red wool fibers from Kya’s hat found on his jacket and Kya was seen speeding her boat toward the tower on the night of his death — and Kya is arrested for Chase’s murder. A trial ensues, highlighting just how much ostracization from society can harm someone and how big of a role prejudice plays in the justice system.

All her life, Kya was alienated and hurt by the people from her town. She was dubbed “the marsh girl,” viewed as strange and less-than for living on the outskirts of society with no means to build a similar lifestyle as everyone else. When she was forced to attend school as a child, the other children laughed at her, causing her to hide and never return. The adults even looked down at her rather than give her any help or show compassion for a girl abandoned by her entire family. Chase, true to his reputation, pursued Kya for his own entertainment by seducing her and promising to marry her, only for Kya to discover his engagement to someone else. Kya was made even more vulnerable to Chase’s strategic charm after being left by Tate, the boy who had taught her to read and write and who she had come to fall in love with.

Before his abrupt departure for college, Tate had a brief relationship with Kya. But upon his return from school, Tate felt uncomfortable with the notable difference between the people in his ordered world and Kya. He leaves, causing Kya permanent emotional damage, and she is subsequently unable to trust anyone or have any normal relationships. Rather than finally acknowledging what they’ve done to her, the town becomes convinced she murdered Chase, and prejudice turns into a witch hunt.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” highlights the ways in which people, functioning as a community, can damage others who are already disadvantaged. Shortly before Chase’s death, two men see him and Kya arguing. The fight quickly turns physical, and Kya manages to get away but doesn’t report the abuse; despite the witnesses, she fears the town will frame it as her fault. In addition, the sheriff traps her and puts her in jail without bail for two months. What’s more, the evidence against Kya, as her lawyer argues at the trial, is purely circumstantial. The townspeople’s prejudice against the girl who grew up in the marsh reaches the point where Kya was made to be a scapegoat for what very well could have been an accident.

The trailer for “Where the Crawdads Sing” indicates that the film will be thrilling, profound and remain true to the novel. The film is directed by Olivia Newman and produced by Reese Witherspoon, who previously expressed her love for the novel and chose it as her book club’s pick back in September 2018, pushing it to the top of the bestsellers list. In June, she visited the movie set, posting on Instagram, “What an incredible day visiting the set of #WheretheCrawdadsSing for the first time. This story has such a special place in my heart and to see it all come to life is true MOVIE MAGIC! Between the stunning location, detailed set design and amazing cast & crew, I think I said ‘WOW’ 579 times. It truly brought tears to my eyes.”

Viewers will also hear snippets of the original song “Carolina,” written by Taylor Swift. Swift posted on Instagram, “Where the Crawdads Sing is a book I got absolutely lost in when I read it years ago. As soon as I heard there was a film in the works… I knew I wanted to be a part of it from the musical side… I wanted to create something haunting and ethereal to match this mesmerizing story.” So far, “Carolina” sounds unlike anything else heard from Swift before, but shares a similar wistfulness as “My Tears Ricochet” as well as the tortured quality of “Safe & Sound.”

Swift wrote “Safe & Sound” for “The Hunger Games,” another story of survival and determination that features a strong female protagonist. Swift is no stranger to the film industry, having not only written music for movie soundtracks but also starred in them as well. Her promotion of “Where the Crawdads Sing” has generated even more excitement for the film, alongside fans of Witherspoon and the supporting cast — Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya (“Normal People”), Taylor John Smith as Tate Walker (“Sharp Objects”) and Harris Dickinson as Chase Andrews (“The Darkest Minds”). Overall, come June, “Where the Crawdads Sing” will be a must-watch.

Writer Profile

Debbie Aspromonti

Hofstra University
Literatures in English

Debbie is a senior Literatures in English major at Hofstra University. She loves to write and is passionate about books, Broadway musicals, social issues and the law.

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