Kindred is a 1976 novel by Octavia butler. The novel is a combination of African American literature and science fiction. This is because the book tells the story of slavery from the perspective of 1976 woman. The novel also entails elements of fantasy as it involves time travel and of course acts of heroism by the time traveler.
Dana is a young African American woman who has just moved into her new apartment with her husband Kevin in California. On the ninth of June 1976 as Dana is busy unpacking in their new apartment she suddenly gets dizzy. Her vision gets blurry and all of a sudden her environment seems to slowly fade away. She wakes up in Maryland but there is a twist. It is now the nineteenth century. She notices a young boy called Rufus struggling to get his footing in the river. She quickly dashes in and saves him but he is unconscious by the time she does so. Tom Weylin, the father of Rufus arrives at the scene and almost on instinct alone points his gun at Dana leaving her terrified to say the least. She gets dizzy once again and wakes up home in her apartment in 1976.
She manages to time travel again to 1815 where she finds the bedroom of Rufus burning. She manages to put out the fire and comfort the boy. She leaves the residence and heads to the residence of Alice Greenwood who she suspects may be her direct ancestor. A group of young men attack the residence and beat up the mother of Alice and her husband. One man tries to rape Dana and frightened she gets dizzy and suddenly it is 1976 again. Dana continues a series of time travels even at a point travelling back with her boyfriend Kevin. Apparently she can only travel back when Rufus is in a crisis or when his life is in danger. Her only way to travel back home is for her to get very scared for her life. On her last time travel Rufus attempts to rape her. She stabs him twice in self-defense and manages to travel back home immediately.
The main characters in the novel are Dana and Rufus. Dana is a very kind and forgiving lady. This is evident since despite all the bad that Rufus does to her she still helps him when he is in crisis. Rufus even drives Alice to suicide but Dana manages to look past this and still help him when he is undergoing depression. “I would have all I could do to look after myself. But I would help him as best I could. And I would try to keep friendship with him, maybe plant a few ideas in his mind that would help both me and the people who would be his slaves in the years to come,” says Dana (Butler, p.68).Rufus on the other hand is manipulative sadistic and plainly just forgetful. He manipulates Alice by lying to her that he had sold her children. This lie takes its toll on Alice until she finally kills herself. Despite all that Dana has done for him throughout his life he still has her beaten and even attempts to rape her.
The novel is very strong in its depiction of slavery. This is evident from the graphic description of how slaves were treated. “I could feel the knife in my hand, still slippery with perspiration. A slave was a slave. Anything could be done to her,” Says Dana as Rufus attempts to rape her (Butler, p. 260). The novel is weak in portraying the slaves as rebellious. They get ideas but never act on them. “I would never be to him what Tess had been to his father—a thing passed around like the whiskey jug at a husking. He wouldn’t do that to me or sell me or . . .” says Dana (Butler, p.260)
In my opinion the novel is very entertaining. It is a classic fusion of the past and the present or so to speak. I would recommend it because it is the portrayal of history in an entertaining way. It fuses history with time travel.
Butler, Octavia E..Kindred. 25th anniverary ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003. Print.
On June 9, 1976, it is the twenty-sixth birthday of Dana, a young black woman. She and Kevin Franklin, her white husband, move into their new apartment in Southern California. Dana does the majority of the unpacking and settling in; Kevin focuses on his office and then stops helping. Dana gets dizzy, and her surroundings fade away. When she comes to, she finds herself in the early 1800s in Maryland. A young white boy named Rufus is struggling in a river. Dana wades in after him, but he is unconscious by the time she reaches him. She drags him to the shore and resuscitates him. Tom Weylin, Rufus’s father, arrives and points a gun at Dana, terrifying her. Following another dizzy spell, she reappears in her apartment in 1976.
Several minutes later, Dana again gets dizzy and disappears. This time, she is whisked back to 1815. Rufus, now a few years older, watches in horror as his bedroom drapes burn. He had set fire to them because he was angry with his father for selling a horse he wanted. Dana puts out the fire, talks to Rufus, and escapes from the house before Weylin finds out she is there. She runs to the home of Alice Greenwood and her mother, free blacks who Dana suspects may be her ancestors. A group of young white men smash down the Greenwoods’ door, drag out Alice’s husband, who is a slave, and beat him. They also beat Alice’s mother. After the men leave, Dana comes out of hiding and helps Alice’s mother. Dana steps outside, and a returning white man finds her, beats her, and attempts to rape her. Dana fears for her life. Following another dizzy spell, she returns home to her own time.
The next time Dana time travels, Kevin comes with her by holding onto her. Back at the Weylins’, Rufus has fallen out of a tree and broken his leg. Nigel, a young black boy, runs for help, and Weylin comes with his slave, Luke. Rufus will not let Dana leave, so everyone returns to the house together. Kevin and Dana stay on the plantation for several weeks and help educate Rufus. But when Dana gets caught teaching Nigel to read, Weylin whips her. Dana returns to 1976, but Kevin does not arrive in time to go with her.
After eight days at home, Dana time travels back and finds that Kevin has left the Maryland area and that Rufus has raped Alice Greenwood. Alice’s husband, Isaac, a slave, is beating Rufus badly. Dana convinces Isaac not to kill Rufus, and Alice and Isaac run away while Dana gets Rufus home. She stays in Maryland for two months. Although Rufus lies about how he got injured, Alice and Isaac are caught, and Alice is beaten and ravaged by dogs. As punishment for helping Isaac escape, Alice is made a slave. Rufus, who is in love with Alice, buys her. He forces Dana to convince Alice to sleep with him after her body has recovered. After Rufus fails to mail her letters to Kevin, Dana attempts to run away. As a result, she receives a vicious whipping, which so hurts and frightens her that she loses the will to run away again. Kevin shows up, as Weylin had written to him, and the couple attempts to escape. Rufus catches them on the road and shoots at them, but they manage to time travel together back to the 1970s.
After a few days, Dana time travels by herself back to Maryland and finds Rufus very drunk and lying facedown in a puddle. Weylin refuses to get a doctor. Over the course of many days, Dana nurses Rufus back to health. Rufus remains weak for weeks. Weylin has a heart attack, and Dana is unable to save him. Rufus blames her for his father’s death and forces her to work in the fields until she collapses.
Rufus is much harsher with Alice than he is with Dana. Alice is jealous of the kindness with which Rufus treats Dana. Alice gives birth to her second child with Rufus, Hagar, who is Dana’s direct ancestor. She tells Dana that she plans to run away as soon as she can. She fears that she is getting too used to Rufus, that she doesn’t hate him enough anymore. Weylin’s wife, Margaret, returns. Dana is forced to care for her. Rufus sells off some slaves, including Tess, his father’s former consort. He also sells Sam, a field hand, as punishment for flirting with Dana. When Dana tries to interfere, Rufus hits her. She slits her wrists in an effort to time travel and is successful.
Dana is back at home for many days. She and Kevin quarrel a little about Rufus. Kevin is jealous of his relationship with Dana, which Dana finds ridiculous. When Dana returns to the plantation, she finds that Alice has attempted to run away. To retaliate, Rufus told her that he sold her children, although actually he only sent them off to live with his aunt in Baltimore. Alice is sick with grief and eventually kills herself. Racked with guilt and anger about Alice’s death, Rufus nearly kills himself. He keeps Dana at his side almost constantly. One day, he tells her that she is so like Alice he cannot stand it. He catches her by the wrists, and Dana struggles free. She goes to the attic, planning to slit her wrists in order to get home, but Rufus follows her and attempts to rape her. Dana stabs him twice with her knife, killing him. She returns home immediately. Her arm is severed and crushed in the spot where Rufus was holding it.