‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ Ending, Explained: Did Kya Murder Chase Andrews?


“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a film adaptation of Delia Owen’s novel by the same name. Since I have not read the book, my understanding of it is solely based on the film adaptation directed by Olivia Newman. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is visually beautiful; the marshes create a romantic touch, while the swamp intrigues us and induces a sense of suspense. “Where the Crawdads Sing” is centered around a girl named Kya Clark, who was born and raised in the marshes of North Carolina. Even though life was not easy, she managed to survive, but everything changed when she was suspected of murdering the popular quarterback of the town, Chase Andrews.

Spoilers Ahead

Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Kya was not always alone. She lived with her family in the swamp. She remembered how happy her mother was when she painted, and how her siblings would often shower her with love and affection. But their happiness was taken away by their alcoholic father, who abused his family out of frustration and disregard. As a little girl, Kay watched her mother leave the household one morning when their father was asleep. The previous night, her father tortured her mother, leaving her with scars on her face. She left without saying a word and never returned. Gradually, her siblings started to leave the house at dawn as the father’s torture became unbearable. Ultimately, Kya was left all alone with her father. She learned to stay out of his sight to avoid the abuse. Even though she tried to scavenge for her food, she gave up and decided to face her father. He took her to town and bought grits and alcohol. It was at the store that Kya met Mabel, the wife of the owner of the store, Mr. James Madison. Mabel was sympathetic to her situation and tried to help her in her little ways. Eventually, even her father left her after receiving a letter from his wife stating that she would never return and wanted to take her children away from him.

While every girl of her age went to school, she lived alone in the swamp, collecting mussels to buy necessities. Even though life was tough, she started to find joy in the nature that surrounded her. She learned to survive on her own, with a little help from Mrs. Mabel now and then. She loved her independence enough to run away from Social Services whenever they came to her house to enquire about her condition. She could not imagine living life on someone else’s terms, and away from the swamp and marsh. From a young age, she started collecting feathers and shells and painting them with the colors left by her mother. Even though she did not learn about the world outside, she intended to study the marsh as closely as possible.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” begins with the death of Chase Andrews and the subsequent arrest of Kya. Since Chase’s body was found right beneath the fire tower in the marshes, the people of the town suspected the marsh girl of the murder. The body was pushed off the tower, and he died as a result of the impact on the back of his head. The police picked up on the rumor and searched Kya’s house before arresting her. Chase’s clothes had the fabric of a red wool cap found in Kya’s room, raising further doubt. What also seemed strange was that no footprints or fingerprints were found where the suspected murder had taken place. Kya was a victim of society’s prejudice against anyone who seemed to be different, but was Kya involved in murdering Chase Andrews? Did someone attempt to frame her, or was it just another drunken accident?

Why Did Kya Murder Chase Andrews?

To answer this question, it is important to understand the character of Kya Clark. Kya was abandoned by her family at a tender age. Therefore, she knew how easily the ones she loved could leave her without a second thought. It was only her brother, Jodie, who returned to meet her after years of separation. She adored her mother and was left heartbroken when she never returned to take Kya along with her. She saved the ashes of the letter that her mother wrote, and her father burned, signifying how desperate she was for the affection of her mother. She also grew up with an abusive father who used to be an army man but drank till dawn after retiring. She heard the screams of her mother as her father tortured her and witnessed her bruised face in the morning. These incidents left a deep scar on Kya and the way she viewed the world.

She felt one with the marsh. The insects, the birds, and every other creature she found there fascinated her. It was the only place she felt safe and where promises were not broken. She could spend hours studying feathers and shells. When it came to the world outside the swamp, she knew she would never be accepted. She dared to step foot in the town after Mrs. Mabel suggested she go to school simply for the meal that they provided the students with. She immediately realized she was not welcomed; she was named the marsh girl, and people laughed at her appearance. It was only the lawyer, Tom Milton, who encouraged her to attend school. She gathered up her courage and entered the classroom, but it was all the same. Students refused to sit next to her, and they commented on her clothes and financial condition. She ran off from school and never went back. She preferred learning about what was around her and sailed on her motorboat to look around the marsh. She befriended a boy named Tate, who would sometimes come to fish in the marsh.

During her teenage years, she was reunited with Tate. After spending years apart, she struggled to open up to him, but eventually, they became the best of friends. He taught her to read and write, and they explored the swamp together. He nurtured Kya’s interest in ethology and appreciated her meticulous study and illustration. After spending years with an abusive father, Tate’s tenderness attracted her. She was ready for physical intimacy, but he stopped her. He would be going away to college and did not wish to hurt her in the process. He was aware of how devastated she would be if he left her after her first sexual experience. Like every other person she loved, Tate left her. She was alone in the swamp, just as always. Before leaving, he listed publishers to whom she could send her work to earn some money. When she noticed a few builders looking around the swamp, she knew she had to pay the outstanding taxes to claim her ownership of the land. Her detailed study of the shells was published, and it helped her earn enough to pay for renovation and taxes. Even though Tate never returned like he had promised he would, he helped her at a tough time.

From the beginning of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” we get a sense that there is a dark side to the story, as Kya narrates how the swamp knows about death, but it does not necessarily define it as a tragedy. Chase introduced himself to Kya when she went shopping at Jumpin’. She agreed to spend time with him, though she always wondered what his intention was behind his friendly gestures. When they shared a kiss, he proceeded to make love to her. She showed discomfort, and he stopped. He agreed to take it slow, just as Kya would prefer it. He had friends in town, but he stated that they did not know him as well as Kya did. Kya trusted him when he expressed his interest in marrying her and building a future together. Here was a man promising to stay with her forever, something that she had been denied her entire life. When he asked her to accompany him to Ashville and spend the night there, she agreed. They got physically intimate, though Kya was stiff all along. He made her believe that was how everyone felt the first time. Kya gifted him a necklace that she made out of a seashell that Chase found in the marsh. He wore it all the time, but it was not found on his body when he died. His mother believed that Kya had taken it from him after murdering him. She knew about her son’s relationship with Kya and added in the courthouse that the murder was Kya’s revenge after he broke off with her. In reality, it was quite the opposite. Kya learned that Chase was engaged the entire time that he was with her. She has avoided him since then and tried to push him away from her life. But he continued to harass her and even attempted to rape her to claim her body. Kya’s face was left bruised just like her mother’s, but she would not let the same happen to her. She spent a few days running away from him, but she refused to hide any longer. It was her house, her swamp, and he was the outsider. She decided to meet her publishers in Greenville and left Barkley Cove. A day after she left, Chase was found dead.

Tom Milton managed to convince the jury of Kya’s innocence. It seemed impossible for her to travel from Greenville to Barkley Clove at midnight to murder Chase Andrews and meet her publishers the next morning without a fluster. The red wool left on Andrew’s clothes could have been there when they used to spend time together. And the tides could have resulted in the washing away of footprints and fingerprints. Kya was set free, and she spent the rest of her life with Tate. He returned to her after completing his studies. He left her believing that she would never leave the marsh, but he returned, realizing that his world was incomplete without her. He tried to warn her of Chase Andrews, but she hated him enough to not trust him. But gradually, she realized he was right, and he managed to regain her trust. For some time, it did seem that Tate might have murdered Chase to protect Kya, and she was aware of it. But in the end, when Kya died of old age, and Tate looked through her belongings, he found the shell necklace and an illustration of Chase Andrews. Tate chose to throw it away into the water to hide the truth that Kya had concealed all her life.

We can only assume that Kya dressed differently and had make-up on while traveling to Greenville to confuse those who saw her, which is why neither the bus driver nor the passengers were able to confirm Kya’s return to Barkley Clove at midnight. She tended to cover tracks. She previously did so to hide from the Social Services. She stole the necklace because that seashell was a rare find, and I believe she did not think Chase deserved to wear it around his neck. She was not something he could own and flaunt like the necklace. She refused to hide anymore, she grew up fearing her father and she was not going to allow another man to destroy the life that she built. She would not leave the swamp as her mother or siblings did, it was her home, so she chose to put up a fight. She was always fascinated by the female fireflies as they lured males from other species by flashing lights and ate them after trapping. By studying female insects, she realized how the world she knew and trusted dealt with males. She understood by then that reporting Chase Andrews would lead to further shaming and harassment, so she chose to deal with it her way. Not all deaths are tragedies. That is what she learned from the swamp. Can her actions be termed “justice,” or should it be labeled as murder? Clearly, Catherine Danielle Clark did not care for or rather trust the laws of the land. Kya’s mother would often ask her to hide “Where the Crawdads Sing” when her father became abusive, implying that she must go deep into the swamp where she could hear the crayfish. She learned to hide her fear, trauma, and secrets deep in the swamp. Even though certain aspects of the story are not convincing, the visuals make it worth a watch.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Olivia Newman.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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