In Kindred, the main character Dana, an African-American writer, is caught between two worlds – her present and the past of her ancestors. Dana travels to the times of slavery and discrimination and goes back to 1976 where she lives a life of a free successful emancipated woman in California. These time-travels give her a unique experience that helps her understand who she is and find her place in the Universe. Undoubtedly, such an intense experience changes Dana and has a significant impact on her life and world view. I would like to examine one of such occasions in particular.
During the incident of the fire, Dana meets one of her ancestors, a young man named Rufus Weylin. Dana is shocked by the casual way Rufus uses the word “nigger.” Though she has undoubtedly experienced racism herself, as a young black woman in the 1970s, to see it through the lens of an era in which slavery is still permitted is emotionally jarring to her. The incident leads Dana to reflect on the social progress that has been made since the abolition of slavery, and ponders over her connection to the racist ways of the antebellum south.
During the same time-traveling incident, Dana witnesses a horrific scene, in which a black man is dragged from his home, tied to a tree, and beaten and whipped by a group of white men. Dana is traumatized and fears for her life as the event takes place. She is shocked by the violence that both slaves and freed black people are subjected to. The entire time-traveling experience was marked by violence, racism, bigotry, shame and horror. Dana feels shame and regret at her inability to help the beaten man and his wife and child. As she has been unwillingly thrust into a situation in which she is powerless, Dana feels trapped and without control or agency over her own life. Though she is not a slave herself, she is beginning to learn what it is like to be one.
Having a new understanding and firsthand perspective of the era of slavery, Dana undergoes a transformation. The events that Dana witnessed during her time-traveling journeys have left her with serious trauma. However, she learns to cope with the trauma and adapt to the stressfulness of the situations that she is thrust into against her will. She comes to accept the abuse and degradation as part of ordinary life, because it is indeed a part of daily life when she is stuck in the past. By learning to accept the violence that is all around her and often directed towards her, she is able to stand up to it and not let horror overwhelm her. The result of Dana's time-traveling to the incident of the fire is that she becomes traumatized, but learns to overcome the trauma and emerge a stronger person.
Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003. Print.