by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred essay questions.

How does Dana's perspective on history change through the course of the novel?

Dana is sent between the past and the present and has to adjust her thinking on history itself. She first has a privileged 20th century mentality and sees herself as a spectator and an outsider; however, as time goes on (literally), she becomes more of an "agent of history," as critic Ashraf H.A. Rushdy writes. She has to make herself a historical subject in the past and see how history is still unfolding in the present. She uses writing to do so, writing in both the past and the present in the most personal way, and linking her family history and community through this medium.

How progressive of a man is Kevin?

Kevin is certainly progressive in many ways. He has married a black woman whom he treats well and fosters an egalitarian relationship; he is intelligent and well-read, excoriates slavery and slaveowners; and he becomes an abolitionist when he is left in the 19th century. However, he is still a man, and sometimes his ideas about his wife seem antiquated. He assumed she would type his manuscripts, and some of his comments about rape are problematic. He also does not seem to see the realities of slavery as Dana does, because he is white. He occasionally allows his privilege that stems from his skin color and gender to blind him to what is actually going on, and to make tone-deaf comments about the time period. He is certainly much better than many other white men, but there are some issues to be aware of.

Why does Dana need to kill Rufus, and what is the significance of this action?

Initially, Dana is unsure about killing Rufus. She wonders if this will destroy her own bloodline and thus obviate her own birth, and she also wonders if his death would be bad for the Weylin slaves. However, when Rufus tries to rape Dana, she does not hesitate, and kills him. This is a way for her to finally assert herself as a black woman; it reveals that she learned the lessons from her time as a slave that she needed to learn. She will not give up her body like she gave up certain other things from her self.

What are Dana's thoughts regarding Sarah, and how do they change over the course of the novel?

When Dana initially meets Sarah she is rather disdainful of her. She wonders why she is mean to the other slaves and why she seems disinclined to be open about her life. The biggest issue, though, is that Sarah seems to have accepted her life as a slave and does not resist in the way Dana thinks she and Alice do. She sees Sarah as a "Mammy" figure, and feels morally superior to her. As time goes on, though, she comes to see that this is unfair. Sarah is doing all she can; this is her form of resistance. Slavery is so abominable and incomprehensible that resistance can take all forms, and Sarah is no exception in this regard.

What is the significance of Alice and Dana being considered two halves of the same woman?

Dana and Alice look the same because they are related, but their similarities are important in other ways as well. Both are smart, independent, wily, and desirous of developing their sense of self. They seem to think the same and have the same fiery spirit. Dana, living in the 20th century, has the ability to manifest these traits much more easily. She says what she thinks, is self-employed, and is in a mostly egalitarian marriage. Alice on the other hand is privy to the whims of her white master, although she chafes at this control. It is very likely that if Dana were actually a slave she would be just like Alice, and if Alice lived in the 20th century, she would be just like Dana. Finally, both women exert a pull over Rufus, and both escape him in their own way–Alice by suicide, and Dana by killing him.

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Kindred Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Kindred is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Why is Isaac fighting with Rufus?

Isaac is fighting with Rufus because Rufus was trying to seduce Alice.

How does she influence him and his attitude toward slavery?

Dana really has no influence on Rufus' attitude towards slavery. Though she meets him when he is a mere child, he still grows up to be a man who abuses and oppresses his slave, and rapes the women.

How long has it been in 1976?

The time span between the past and the present is approximately 150 years.

Study Guide for Kindred

Kindred is a novel by Octavia Butler. The Kindred study guide contains a biography of Octavia E. Butler, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Kindred
  • Kindred Summary
  • Character List

Essays for Kindred

Kindred is a book by Octavia Butler. Kindred literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Kindred.

  • Chronotopic Shaping and Reshaping in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Octavia E. Butler's Kindred
  • The Concept of "Home"
  • Cultural Trauma Narratives' Use of Supernatural Elements
  • The Many Forms of Home
  • Individuals that Transcend Time: Non-linear and Fantastical Narratives of Kindred and The Rag Doll Plagues

Lesson Plan for Kindred

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Kindred
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Kindred Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for Kindred

  • Introduction
  • Main themes

essay topics for kindred

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Essays on Kindred

What makes a good kindred essay topics.

When it comes to choosing a topic for your Kindred essay, it's important to consider what will make for a compelling and engaging piece of writing. The best essay topics are those that are thought-provoking, unique, and relevant to the themes and messages of the novel. In order to brainstorm and select a great essay topic, it's important to consider the following points:

  • Brainstorming: One of the best ways to come up with essay topics is to brainstorm ideas related to the novel. This can include exploring the characters, themes, and historical context of the story. Consider what aspects of the novel resonate with you and what ideas you find most interesting.
  • Relevance: A good essay topic should be relevant to the novel and its themes. Consider how the topic connects to the characters, their experiences, and the overall message of the story.
  • Originality: It's important to choose a topic that is unique and not overly common. Look for angles and perspectives that haven't been explored extensively in other essays about Kindred.
  • Interest: Choose a topic that genuinely interests you and that you feel passionate about. This will make the writing process more enjoyable and the final essay more engaging for your readers.

Overall, a good Kindred essay topic should be original, relevant, and interesting to both the writer and the reader.

Best Kindred Essay Topics

  • The impact of time travel on the protagonist's identity in Kindred
  • The role of race and gender in shaping the characters' experiences in the antebellum South
  • The theme of power and control in the relationships between the characters
  • The significance of the river as a symbol in Kindred
  • The parallels between the protagonist's experiences in the 19th and 20th centuries
  • The portrayal of trauma and resilience in the novel
  • The role of education and literacy in the characters' lives
  • The theme of freedom and captivity in Kindred
  • The use of magical realism in the novel
  • The significance of family and community in shaping the characters' identities
  • The impact of historical events on the characters' lives
  • The exploration of agency and autonomy in Kindred
  • The theme of survival and adaptation in the face of adversity
  • The portrayal of love and relationships in the novel
  • The significance of storytelling and oral tradition in the characters' lives
  • The role of violence and its impact on the characters
  • The exploration of memory and its role in shaping the characters' experiences
  • The significance of language and communication in Kindred
  • The theme of home and belonging in the novel
  • The impact of trauma and its long-term effects on the characters

Kindred essay topics Prompts

  • Imagine that you are a character in Kindred. Write a journal entry reflecting on your experiences and the challenges you face in the antebellum South.
  • Create a modern-day adaptation of Kindred, setting the story in a different time period or location. How would the themes and messages of the novel translate to this new context?
  • Choose a minor character in Kindred and explore their experiences and perspective. How do their experiences contribute to the overall themes and messages of the story?
  • Write a letter from the protagonist to one of the other characters in Kindred, reflecting on their relationship and the challenges they face.
  • Explore the use of symbolism in Kindred. Choose a specific symbol from the novel and analyze its significance and impact on the story and characters.

Choosing a great Kindred essay topic involves considering relevance, originality, and interest. By exploring unique angles and perspectives, you can create a compelling and thought-provoking essay that engages both you and your readers.

Kindred by Octavia Butler: Kinship, Survival, and The Power of Actions

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Kindred and The Time Machine: The Construction of Chronotops

June 1979, by Octavia E. Butler

Neo-slave narrative

The book is the first-person account of a young African-American woman writer, Dana, who finds herself being shunted in time between her Los Angeles, California home in 1976 and a pre-Civil War Maryland plantation. There she meets her ancestors: a proud black freewoman and a white planter who has forced her into slavery and concubinage. As Dana's stays in the past become longer, the young woman becomes intimately entangled with the plantation community. She makes hard choices to survive slavery and to ensure her return to her own time.

Kindred explores the dynamics and dilemmas of antebellum slavery from the sensibility of a late 20th-century black woman, who is aware of its legacy in contemporary American society. Through the two interracial couples who form the emotional core of the story, the novel also explores the intersection of power, gender, and race issues, and speculates on the prospects of future egalitarianism.

Edana (Dana) Franklin, Rufus Weylin, Kevin Franklin, Tom Weylin, Alice Greenwood, Sarah, Margaret Weylin, Hagar Weylin, Luke, etc.

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of "wrong" ideas.” “Like all good works of fiction, it lies like the truth.” “Slavery was a long slow process of dulling.” “He wasn't a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.”

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Writing Style and Tone

Octavia E. Butler’s “Kindred” showcases her exceptional skill in blending genres and crafting a narrative that is as thought-provoking as it is engaging. Her writing style and tone play a crucial role in how the story unfolds and affects the reader. Let’s explore these aspects of her work:

— Direct and Accessible —Butler’s prose is known for its clarity and accessibility. She employs a direct narrative style that draws readers into the story without unnecessary complexity. This approach makes the challenging themes and emotional depth of “Kindred” approachable for a wide audience, enhancing its impact.

— Intimate and Reflective —The first-person narration from Dana’s perspective creates an intimate connection between the protagonist and the reader. Butler uses this closeness to immerse readers in Dana’s experiences, thoughts, and emotions, making the historical aspects of the story deeply personal and reflective. This introspective tone invites readers to consider their own relationship to the novel’s themes.

— Tense and Urgent —Butler masterfully builds tension and urgency throughout “Kindred,” reflecting the life-and-death stakes of Dana’s time travels. The tone often shifts to match the protagonist’s emotional state, from calm introspection to frantic desperation. This variability keeps readers engaged and underscores the novel’s exploration of survival and sacrifice.

— Historically Grounded —Despite its speculative elements, “Kindred” is deeply rooted in historical fact, and Butler’s tone respects this reality. She does not romanticize or soften the horrors of slavery, instead presenting them with a starkness that is both respectful and impactful. The historical tone of the novel lends authenticity to the narrative , making the past feel immediate and real.

— Empathetic —Throughout the novel , Butler’s tone is imbued with empathy for her characters, even as she exposes their flaws and the brutal realities of their lives. This empathetic approach allows readers to understand the complexities of each character’s situation, fostering a deeper engagement with the story’s moral and ethical dilemmas.

In summary, Octavia E. Butler’s writing style and tone in “Kindred” are essential to its effectiveness as a work of speculative fiction that confronts the legacy of slavery. Through her accessible prose , intimate narration, and respectful treatment of history, Butler invites readers into a deeply moving exploration of race, power, and identity.

Literary Devices used in Kindred

In “Kindred,” Octavia E. Butler masterfully employs a variety of literary devices to enhance the novel’s themes and impact. Here are the top 10 devices she uses, each contributing uniquely to the narrative’s depth and resonance.

  • Foreshadowing —Butler uses foreshadowing to build tension and hint at future events. Early mentions of dangers and moral dilemmas prepare readers for the complex situations Dana will face, setting the stage for the narrative’s exploration of history and morality.
  • Metaphor —Throughout “Kindred,” metaphors enrich the narrative , drawing comparisons that deepen the reader’s understanding of the characters’ experiences. For example, the plantation acts as a metaphor for the prison of social and racial constructs, confining both the enslaved and the owners in a system of mutual destruction.
  • Symbolism —Butler employs symbols, such as Dana’s arm and the river near the Weylin plantation, to represent larger themes of loss, transformation, and the flow of history. These symbols serve as recurring motifs that underscore the narrative’s exploration of time, identity, and the scars of the past.
  • Irony —The novel is replete with instances of irony, especially situational irony, where the outcomes of events contrast sharply with what the characters and readers expect. This device highlights the absurdities and tragedies of the social and historical forces shaping the characters’ lives.
  • Flashback and Time Travel —Time travel serves as both a plot mechanism and a literary device, allowing Butler to employ flashbacks that connect Dana’s present with her ancestors’ pasts. This device not only drives the narrative forward but also enables a deep exploration of historical roots and personal identity.
  • Allusion —Butler alludes to real historical events and figures to anchor the novel’s fantastical elements in reality. These allusions enrich the narrative , providing depth and context that underscore the story’s themes of race, history, and memory.
  • Parallelism —The parallel lives and experiences of Dana and her ancestors highlight themes of continuity and change. Butler uses parallelism to draw connections across time, illustrating how past and present are intertwined in the characters’ identities and choices.
  • Imagery —Vivid imagery brings the settings and characters of “Kindred” to life, immersing readers in the sensory details of both the modern world and the antebellum South. This device enhances the emotional impact of the novel , making its exploration of history and humanity more immediate and powerful.
  • Personification —Butler occasionally personifies elements of nature and the plantation, imbuing them with human qualities that reflect the characters’ inner states and the novel’s themes. This device deepens the narrative’s emotional resonance and connects the human and natural worlds.
  • Dialogue —Through realistic and nuanced dialogue , Butler reveals character relationships, social dynamics, and the evolving moral landscape in which the characters operate. The dialogue not only advances the plot but also deepens the novel’s thematic explorations of power, identity, and resistance.

Each of these literary devices contributes to the rich tapestry of “Kindred,” enhancing its exploration of complex themes and engaging readers on multiple levels. Butler’s skilled use of these tools cements the novel’s status as a powerful and enduring work of speculative fiction .

Literary Devices Examples

In “Kindred,” Octavia E. Butler skillfully employs literary devices to deepen the narrative and enhance thematic elements. Below are tables providing examples and explanations for each of the top 10 literary devices used in the book.


Flashback and time travel, parallelism, personification.

Through these examples, Butler’s use of literary devices enriches “Kindred’s” narrative , deepening the exploration of its themes and enhancing the reader’s engagement with the story.

Kindred – FAQs

What is the main plot of Kindred? The main plot of “Kindred” revolves around Dana, a black woman from 1976 Los Angeles, who inexplicably time travels to early 19th century Maryland. She finds herself repeatedly drawn back in time to save Rufus, a white ancestor who is a plantation owner’s son. The novel explores Dana’s struggles to navigate the dangers of slavery and her complex relationship with Rufus, all while trying to ensure her own survival and return to her time.

Who is the author of Kindred, and what is the book about? Octavia E. Butler is the author of “Kindred.” The book is a unique blend of science fiction and historical fiction , exploring themes of race, slavery, and power dynamics through the story of a modern black woman who time travels to the antebellum South.

Why does Dana keep getting pulled back in time in Kindred? Dana keeps getting pulled back in time to save Rufus, her white ancestor, in moments when his life is in danger. Her trips seem to be tied to Rufus’s survival; as his direct descendant, Dana’s existence in the present is linked to Rufus’s survival in the past. The novel suggests that these time travels are necessary for Dana to confront and understand the complex legacy of slavery that is part of her heritage.

What are the major themes of Kindred? Major themes in “Kindred” include the legacy of slavery, the complexity of interracial relationships, the dynamics of power and powerlessness, and the struggle for identity. The novel also delves into themes of survival, sacrifice, and the interconnectedness of past and present.

How does Kindred address the topic of slavery? “Kindred” addresses the topic of slavery by directly confronting the brutal realities of the antebellum South through the protagonist’s time-traveling experiences. It explores the dehumanization, violence, and moral complexities associated with slavery, offering a nuanced perspective on its impact on both enslaved people and slave owners. The novel also examines how the legacy of slavery continues to affect descendants in the present.

Is Kindred considered science fiction ? Yes, “Kindred” is considered science fiction due to its use of time travel as a central plot mechanism. However, it also incorporates elements of historical fiction , making it a cross-genre novel that defies easy categorization. Octavia E. Butler uses the speculative element of time travel to explore deep historical and social issues, particularly those related to race and slavery.

How does Octavia E. Butler explore interracial relationships in Kindred? Butler explores interracial relationships in “Kindred” through the lens of both the protagonist , Dana, and her white husband, Kevin, in the 20th century, and the complex, often abusive relationships between white slave owners and enslaved black women in the 19th century. The novel examines the challenges, misunderstandings, and dynamics of power and privilege within these relationships, highlighting their complexity and the impact of societal and historical forces on personal connections.

This quiz is designed to test comprehension of “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler, focusing on key plot points, themes, and character relationships within the novel .

Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from “Kindred”:

“The fire and the water seemed to symbolize my whole life. One trying to destroy me, the other trying to save me. Yet, both were necessary for my survival. The fire, with its power to consume and destroy, forced me to move, to act. The water, with its flow and clarity, offered me a chance to cleanse and heal. Together, they shaped me, tested me, and ultimately, saved me.”

  • Metaphor : The fire and the water are used metaphorically to represent the challenges and support the narrator faces in life. The fire symbolizes destructive forces or challenges, while the water symbolizes healing and support.
  • Symbolism : Fire and water are symbols here, with fire representing danger and destruction, and water representing salvation and healing.
  • Personification : The fire and the water are personified; the fire “trying to destroy” the narrator and the water “trying to save” her, giving these elements human-like intentions and actions.
  • Juxtaposition : The juxtaposition of fire and water, two opposing elements, highlights the contrasting experiences of the narrator’s life—struggle and support, challenge and healing.

This exercise aims to enhance understanding of literary devices by applying them to a specific text, demonstrating how metaphors, symbolism, personification, and juxtaposition can add depth and meaning to a narrative .

“Kindred” by Octavia Butler Literature Analysis Essay

“Kindred” is a book that tells the story of slavery, survival, and love. Octavia Butler employs the thriller genre to present her slavery narrative. Butler’s narrative can be summarized as the main character’s journey in which she meets her ancestor, saves her ancestor, and then kills her ancestor. “Kindred” does make use of strong emotions such as those used in Tony Morrison’s book “Beloved.”

Also, the author does not invest too much in her characters as Hailey did in “Roots.” However, the book manages to present the reader with a realistic possibility of being involved in slavery. The author of “Kindred” labels the book as a work of science fiction even though the book fits more into other genres such as thriller, time travel, black history fiction, drama, and love story genres.

The book begins in 1976 when a couple is moving into a new house. The couple consists of Kevin, a white novelist and his wife, twenty-six-year-old African American aspiring writer Edana Franklin. When the two are unpacking their belongings, Dana starts feeling dizzy, passes out, and finds herself in an unfamiliar world. Dana finds herself in front of a river where a white boy is drowning. Instinctively, she jumps into the river and saves the boy.

This is in spite of the fact that the boy’s mother is yelling to Dana to “get her black hands off her son” (Butler 11). The boy’s father points a gun to Dana’s head, and before he shoots her, she is taken back to her apartment where Kevin is looking at her in awe. Dana’s husband informs her that she had been teleported, but even before she processes this information, it happens again.

Dana meets with the same boy while he is trying to burn down a house and manages to rescue him in time. This time Dana manages to ask some questions, and she learns that she is involved in time travel and the little boy is his ancestor. Dana has been picked to be the one who keeps the boy alive until he can start his ancestry (Butler 24). Therefore, if the boy dies before starting a bloodline, Dana’s existence will be in jeopardy.

In the course of her time travel episodes, Dana comes face to face with many misfortunes including almost being raped and killed. Her biggest challenge is to identify herself in 1815 because she does not have the necessary identification documents (Butler 78). In the next few weeks, Dana is involved in various instances of time travel where she is supposed to rescue Rufus, her ancestor.

In the course of these events, she becomes close with some of the slaves in Rufus’ plantation. Also, she is involved in several adventures, including time traveling with her white husband. For instance, at one time, her husband is left stranded, and Dana “has to go back five years to rescue him” (Butler 135).

The book mostly relies on the main character when telling the slavery story. The main heroine is a knowledgeable African American woman who is married to a white novelist. Dana’s wide knowledge of historical and social matters is very instrumental during her time travel episodes. The author uses the heroine to explore black history. When Dana is transported to the past, she adapts to that environment with ease. Her intellect helps her in understanding the plight of a nineteenth century black woman.

During her time at the plantation, Dana faces her predicament with dignity. In spite of all the things that happen to Dana, she just shrugs them off and keeps on going. She avoids getting involved in any of the modern Civil Rights palaver. It would be correct to assume that any person from the Civil Rights’ Era would be too eager to preach the equal rights gospel to the stakeholders of slavery. However, the author chooses not to delve into this angle and creates a character who understands the history and the scenarios surrounding slavery.

Moreover, Dana’s attitude towards the characters she encounters during her time travel is civil and compassionate. Dana’s role is to be an observer of slavery and not a critic. The main character recognizes that her protests will not change either the past or the future. All she needs to do is to ensure that the past is not distorted so that her current life is guaranteed.

For instance, she does not try to ‘change Rufus’ behavior’ during her interactions with him (Butler 102). By not being vocal against slavery and the other injustices she encounters, Butler’s main character acts as a trustworthy slavery observer. Dana seems to understand that the characters she encounters are a product of their time, and that is why she carries on with her life unperturbed by people’s actions.

Nevertheless, Dana is not ignorant of the challenges she witnesses during her time travel. This is in line with the author’s aim of exploring slavery from the inside while still maintaining a periodical distance. The same applies to Kevin when he travels back to 1815. Although he has the advantage of not being mistaken for a slave, he does not try to alter the dynamics of the past. The only radical activity Kevin engages in is “aiding escaping slaves” (Butler 199). However, this was a common practice during the slavery period.

The metaphor of time travel is used extensively in this book. The author uses time travel to subdivide the sections in her book. Each time-travel episode in the book gives a complete section of the story. The time travel metaphor is not used as a scientific aspect, but it is used to show the passage of time. The author does not explain the mechanisms of time travel, but she uses it as an interface between the past and the present. The simple nature of this time travel shows how people consider slavery as a simple occurrence.

At the beginning of the book, time travel is a little shocking, but as the book progresses, it becomes mundane. The metaphor of time travel shows how easy it is for people to get used to the institution of slavery in the same Dana gets used to time travel and slavery.

The main character’s inability to control her time travel episodes is a metaphor for how the people who were entrapped in slavery were unable to control their fate. Dana moves back and forth in her time travel episodes, just like the people who were involved in slavery were moved around by its events.

“Kindred” is more about fantasy time travel than it is about science and fiction. First, the author does not try to explain the metaphysics behind the time travel aspect. This implies the science behind the time travel is irrelevant to the story being told. Butler’s characters just find themselves in a tricky situation, and they try their best to maneuver through their predicaments and come out alive. The essence of time travel is to allow the plot to develop.

The author explores how modern people would fare in slavery, Maryland irrespective of their race. In one instance, Dana claims that reality in 1815 is “a sharper and stronger reality” (Butler 191). The author uses Dana and her husband as a thought provocation mechanism. Through these two main characters, the reader can contemplate what it would be like to survive through the most difficult days of slavery. Also, readers can think about how this experience would change their historical outlook.

Depending on whether the reader is white or black, his/her survival chances would vary. The question of how an individual might react to the slavery environment also comes up. Several people would react differently to how Dana reacted. For instance, most people would be too eager to demand their rights and freedoms, while others would most likely urge the enslaved characters to revolt.

The author makes Dana’s quick adaptation to slavery seem easy. However, readers find it hard to believe that an ordinary human being would adapt to such hardships with ease. The author wants the readers to believe that the main actor easily adapted to her new environment with few reservations. For instance, Dana observes that “the slaves seemed to like Rufus and fear him at the same time” (Butler 229). However, this outcome is quite unlikely in such a scenario.

Although the book is fictional, it would be more realistic if the main character put up a resistance against her new predicament. The author fronts her book as a work of science fiction. However, her work ignores the parameters of science fiction. Science fiction readers would find the book substandard in various aspects. The author also seems to misuse several literary genres in a bid to pass her message across. Science fiction is one of the genres that the author associates her work with but fails to abide by their disciplines.

Moreover, the author touches on time travel and love story genres but does not fully commit to these genres. The author avoids abiding in any specific genre in a bid to remain true to her core themes. However, the author risked producing substandard literary work by not abiding by any specific genre.

The book’s author presents a near accurate 1815, but her 1976 is too idealized. According to the author, the main character has not encountered any major racial prejudice in her life. This would be an unlikely development in 1976 because racial prejudice was common. Therefore, Dana would have encountered racial prejudice in the course of her education, her social encounters, or her part-time job.

According to the author, Dana could have been “the little woman who knew very little about freedom….the female Uncle Tom” (Butler 145). This assumption prompts the reader to speculate that the main character was living in a 1976 Utopia. This would also mean that the book was a challenge to African Americans who are ignorant of their slavery history.

Although the author makes several genre-related oversights, “Kindred” is a fascinating and thrilling time-travel account. The author strikes a perfect balance between fiction and human drama. The author relies on her well-balanced main character to deliver her message to the readers. Overall, the book is a well-researched time travel cum black history account on the effects of slavery on a modern white or black American.

Works Cited

Butler, Octavia. Kindred , New York, NY: Beacon Press, 1988. Print.

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Summary and Study Guide

The 1979 novel  Kindred was written by Octavia E. Butler, a Black author from California who wrote science fiction that challenged white hegemony. The novel tells the story of Edana “Dana” Franklin , a young Black woman in 1976 whose connection to a young white boy named Rufus Weylin allows her to time travel to 1800s Maryland. As she jumps between 1976 and the 1800s, she learns how she and Rufus are connected, and she must survive as an enslaved person in the antebellum South to fit in.

The novel has been praised for its raw and compelling depiction of slavery, bringing it to the forefront to remind us to never forget the sins of our past. Butler’s use of time travel highlights the importance of keeping the past present because the trauma left behind continues to shape our daily lives.

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The story begins in 1976 when Black protagonist Dana turns 26 and moves into a new Los Angeles home with her white husband, Kevin Franklin . While unpacking, she suddenly feels disoriented and finds herself outside watching a young white boy drown. She saves him and learns his name is Rufus moments before his father points a gun at her, sending her back to the present. Later that day, Dana time travels again to extinguish a fire Rufus has just started and learns she is in antebellum Maryland. Rufus is her ancestor, and he subconsciously calls her whenever he is in danger, sending her traveling through time to save him. Dana also learns that she travels back home when she believes her life is in danger.

When Rufus falls out of a tree, Dana arrives, this time with Kevin as her companion. Together, they must fit into the roles of the period: Dana must pretend to be an enslaved person, and Kevin must pretend to be her owner. They meet other enslaved people such as Sarah, the plantation cook; Nigel, Rufus’s enslaved friend; Luke, Nigel’s father and the Black overseer of enslaved people; Carrie, Sarah’s daughter who has a speech disorder; and Alice, Rufus’s friend, eventual lover, and Dana’s ancestor as well. They also meet Rufus’s parents, Tom and Margaret Weylin, the cruel plantation owners. Dana wants to make sure young Rufus does not end up as evil as his parents.

When Dana gets caught teaching Nigel and Carrie to read, Tom Weylin whips her savagely, which triggers Dana’s travel back to 1976 alone. Kevin does not make it in time to hold on to her as she travels, so he is left stranded in Maryland. Dana is only gone for eight days when she is called back to save Rufus. Five years have passed for him, and he has been beaten by Alice’s new husband for raping Alice. Dana must again play the role of the enslaved person while helping Rufus, befriending Alice, and searching for Kevin. Eventually, Kevin returns for her and they plan to leave North, but Rufus stops them. He aims a gun at Dana, sending her and Kevin back to 1976 together.

That same day, Rufus calls Dana again; for him, six more years have passed. Dana must care for him as he suffers from dengue fever. Eventually, Alice gives birth to Hagar, Dana’s great grandmother, and Dana is satisfied knowing that she has ensured her own birth. However, Rufus has become controlling, sadistic, and vengeful like his father. Alice and the other enslaved people despise him, and Dana has mixed feelings about him. She tries to make him a kinder slaveowner, but when Rufus catches another enslaved person, Sam James, flirting with Dana, he becomes jealous and sells Sam. This pushes Dana to slit her wrists to be sent home to the present.

Two weeks later, Rufus calls Dana one last time. Alice has killed herself after Rufus made her believe he had sold their children. Rufus asks Dana to stay with him, and when she refuses, he tries to rape her. She stabs and kills him, sending herself back to the present. However, Rufus’s dead hand was still clutching her arm, so when she arrives in the present, her arm is conjoined with the wall of her home and her arm must be amputated.

When she recovers, she and Kevin go to Maryland to search for records of the Weylin plantation. They find that Nigel burned the house down to cover up the murder, and the enslaved people were subsequently resold. Alice’s children presumably went to live with Margaret Weylin’s family in Baltimore. Dana and Kevin are left with their harrowing memories of the past and are forced to move on together now that they are free of Rufus.

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Home / Essay Samples / Life / Kindred / Literary Analysis Of The Novel Kindred By Octavia Butler

Literary Analysis Of The Novel Kindred By Octavia Butler

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  • Topic: Kindred

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