Kindred is a novel written by Octavia Butler with an aim of narrating the agony of today’s black woman. It depicts a true picture of a society that subjects its people to bondage with limited resistance from victims. A major character, Dana, is forced to relocate from California to colonial South in order to provide protection to a man that would later become her ancestor. Her survival remains assured as long as she is able to keep this man alive. In this novel, she is instructed to travel to a Maryland plantation, the home of her ancestor Rufus Weylin. Every time his ancestor encounters a risk, Dana is summoned to provide protection. As Dana revisits the past, she is haunted by the cruel reality of American slave trade. In this novel, family bondage and births of children played a significant role in enforcement of slavery. Establishment of new families and birth of new children provided Weylin with the basis for instituting stricter rules to slaves.
The entire novel revolves around bondage and cruelty that is painful to remember. In her entire journey, Dana learns the true meaning of true love after comparing her own life with slaves that have been caught bondage in his father’s plantation. After going through a memorable experience in antebellum south, Dana compiles a slave trade story using an innovative approach. All characters incorporated in the play have an essential role in the development of Dana’s story. Specifically, Alice is a woman required to give birth to a child who will eventually become a great-grandmother to Dana. Although Alice is not in love with Rufus, she has to comply with his requirements. Therefore, the author develops a close relationship between Alice and Dana. This relationship helps the reader comprehend the experience of a 20th Century woman in the colonial South. As the author explains, the old society faced several challenges and threats in hands of colonists who owned large plantations. Moreover, it was important for the author to develop the character of Alice as she connects the past to the present, disclosing how these two periods differed from one another in areas such as sexuality. Alice is also used to portray significance of parenthood and individual definition in an oppressive world.
Therefore, Butler ensures that the reader is able to comprehend American in 19th Century and slavery from a wider perspective.
In this novel, strong family ties prevent slaves from running away from plantation owned by colonists. Consequently, these families remain closely bonded regardless of the challenges encountered. As Butler explains, oppressors take advantage of the love that bonds these families together. The enslaved individuals understood that in case they annoyed Weylin, the outcome is retaliation that involved capturing the family members for sale and through beating. Sam is a victim of this form of oppression. In this case, he was sold as a slave for committing the offense of speaking to Dana.
Weylins, the plantation owners, also inspire existence of family ties. This cultural group believes that promoting strong family ties is an effective way of ensuring that slaves remain closely tied to the plantation. For this reason, Weylins is skeptic of Nigel when single, but when married to Carrie the perception changes to trust. After settling down, Nigel is involved with plantation activities and becomes a hardworking and loyal slave. Nigel has a lot of love for his wife, who strives to ensure that she remains supportive and respectful to him. Likewise, Sarah is held in bondage because of the love she has for Carrie. Weylin remains aware that he has a high likelihood of attracting a good price. In an effort to become successful, Carrie becomes a hardworking person. Moreover, Carrie encourages her daughter Sarah to work hard. As long Sarah receives protection from Carrie, she remains on the plantation and continues following orders issued by Weylin. Alice sticks to the plantation in order to ensure that her children receive fair treatment. Consequently, the unity of the family collapses when Alice is informed by Rufus that her children were sold. In another instance, Dana enhances kindness by saving Rufus who mistreated her previously. This is because she views Rufus as family; therefore, saving him would entail also saving her own life. Therefore, the author of the novel highlights family linkages as the rare joys of slaves in that era. Moreover, family linkages result slaves being loyal to a plantation, a location of their anguish.
As Dada maintains, her marriage to Kevin is valid as long as they remain in the plantation. This couple maintains that they have been negatively affected after opting to travel South. Moreover, when the wife shares her experience to Kevin, conflicts erupt between the two. Kevin is unable to comprehend everything that Dana tries to inform him about her life in the South, where she was kept in bondage. However, Dana understands that such conflicts have to erupt in their relationship. While she is aware that her husband is imperfect, she remains faithful to him and hopes that one day he will transform. Regardless of his husband’s behavioral conducts, Dana remains proud of him.
Throughout the story, the author illustrates the slavery scars that have been inflicted to strongly united families. Butler focuses on three main factors in effort to portray the South ability to enforce slavery. The first factor highlighted in this novel is physical abuse. Continuous work, particularly the physically tiring fieldwork, keeps the captured slaves exhausted and dispirited. Enforcement of strict punishment for minor offenses keeps the slaves strongly attached to their duties. Moreover, these slaves remain actively involved in their roles to avoid subjection of their families to punitive measures. Constant beatings and near death experiences after attempting to escape prevents future attempts to misbehave in plantations. Psychological abuse is another factor highlighted by Butler. Constant beatings and humiliation in public leaves the slaves—breadwinners of their families—with humiliated feelings. For instance, the worst punitive measure was witnessing as the slaves family members were abused because of trying to escape while in plantations.
Encouragement of marriage among slaves promoted existence of strong family bondage. The plantation owner believed that by allowing marriage, the desire of escaping also reduced. For instance, as long as a slave believed that he had nothing to lose after escaping and being killed, the likelihood of committing this offence was high. However, the slaves with families remained loyal to their duties with expectations in return for fair treatment of their family members. However, selling of family members had a negative impact on slaves’ spirit. For instance, Weylin sells three of Sarah’s three children and leaves her with only one to protect. She hardly questioned slavery and believed that she had limited freedom because of “losing all that she could stand to lose.” Therefore, the fear of losing the only remaining daughter is unbearable. Therefore, the escaping slaves stand a chance of losing their lives and their family members.
Births of children also played a significant role in Kindred. In the novel, new births represent an onset of cruel slavery. For slaves in these plantations, new births presented mixed blessings. For instance, the family members viewed the children as a blessing. However, they also viewed these children as a basis for further oppression. In an effort to protect their children from mistreatment, slaves had to comply with new and stricter rules. The increasing necessities of children force the slaves to do more work in return for more favors from plantation owners. As an infant continued to grow, parents have to encounter more suffering in fear that these children could be sold. The author makes the initial trip of Dana to overlap with her birthday. This shows that just like children born in plantations, Dana would also suffer that way. The birthday of this child is on 4th July, which coincidentally is the same day USA gained independence. This timing indicates that the country is grounded to a painful past. While the birth of USA is accompanied by several positive impacts, it goes through a painful experience.
Octavia E. Butler. Kindred. 1979.