Dana’s Interpretation on Slaveowners

“[Tom Weylin] wasn’t a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper.”

Octavia Butler’s Kindred is a unique mix between fantasy and non-fiction. On the one hand, Dana’s experiences were to an extent true with slaves during the nineteenth century, but with a twist. Dana can travel back in time from 1976 California to 1800s Maryland. Before, Weylin was seen as a cruel slave holder towards Dana. Dana was Rufus’s slave (Weylin’s son) so anything Rufus says goes. Dana realized that he wasn’t as bad as she thought he was as a person. When Weylin said that he would respect Rufus’s orders of not whipping Dana, Dana noticed. She knows that Weylin isn’t the best human being, actually far from it but, Dana thinks that she has consider and judge Weylin’s behavior and attitudes during the 1800s, not 1976. Because she’s from 1976, Dana can see Weylin’s inhumane features clearly. Dana threw away the bias and took into account her current time in the 1800s. At the time, it was the norm to own and mistreat slaves. Because of the society’s economic and social norms, Weylin is only doing of what he was raised to do. Of course, mistreatment  and dehumanization of other human beings is beyond cruel, but its the 1800s and is typical among slaveowners. If Weylin’s behavior was seen in 1976 California, it would be unacceptable. Another possibility for Dana’s thinking on Weylin’s actions might be from staying in Maryland too long. Slaves born and raised into slavery saw it as a way of life, so seeing white masters beating slaves was just how their life was supposed to be according to them. Being a slave as well, Dana’s judgement might have evolved over her subordinance for Rufus.


Killer or Savior?

“You killed my baby!” she screamed. “You killed him!” (page 14)

This sentence is spoken by Rufus’ mother who had accused Dana, the woman who was trying to save Rufus from dying from drowning in a river, of killing her son when in fact she was just trying to help him by giving him mouth to mouth at the moment.  She screams “you killed my baby” twice at Dana, suggesting an interesting idea of how Rufus’ mother, a white lady, saw Dana who was a black woman in that moment.  An idea that portrays that even when Dana was trying her level best to bring good to the situation, she was only still labeled as a killer.  Maybe this was because of her skin color or maybe it wasn’t.  Sadly, this was the prevailing idea brought upon this situation.

I find it shocking that these words came out of Rufus’ mother’s mouth because she did witness Dana trying to save Rufus at the time.  Even Rufus’ dad came out of nowhere with a long rifle pointed towards Dana, after she had saved him which suggests a major idea of a prejudice mentality.  A prejudice mentality like that can be unfortunately supported since it was 1976, as people were still getting used to black people being around everyone else as if it were normal.  This sentence justifies this theme of preconceiving an opinion that is not based on reason by Rufus’ mother and father by the actions they took when Dana saved their son.


A Rough Upbringing

“The boy already knew more about revenge than I did. What kind of man was he going to grow up into? “Why did you set this fire?” I asked. “To get even with your father for something else?”(pg25)

This quote depicts a reoccurring theme throughout this chapter “The Fire” where Rufus seems to be being molded into a master. Through this scene alone it is shown how he has already committed an act of revenge and has more experience with it than Dana. When Dana describes how he he already knew more about revenge it and questions who he will become it very clearly signifies that this child is being molded by his parents.

After the quote Rufus goes on to explain that his dad had sold a horse he had wanted and did not even need the money, so in retaliation he set the stable ablaze.Along with this we soon learn that he also committed the act because he had been whipped by his father and Dana becomes shocked with what has happened. Through this we are also able to see that Rufus will soon begin to associate physical punishment as a solution for when someone commits a wrongdoing despite the severity. The father is said to have almost killed the son had he not stopped.This entire ordeal shocks Dana to the bone especially because the contrast of this time period to hers shows a clear divide in the way that people are treated. Another scene where she has this realization is when Rufus refuses to call blacks by their names or even Dana despite knowing her and instead calls them by a slur. Therefore Dana is constantly reminded of where she is and is very worried for what Rufus will be become.


Life in 1815

“I was glad to avoid the road, though. The possibility of meeting a white adult here frightened me, more than the possibility of street violence ever had at home.”

Dana appears in Rufus’s room just in time to save him from burning the house down and killing himself just like how he almost drowned himself when he was about five. When she hears the language Rufus uses to address her and of the way Rufus’s father treats him and people like her, she questions him about where and when she is exactly. After questioning Rufus for a while about where she is and what year she’s in, Dana comes to a realization of exactly how dire her current situation really is. Learning from Rufus that she has traveled to the year 1815, Dana has landed at the heart of slavery in the United States.

I found it very interesting how she was more afraid of being seen by a white person than she was of encountering street violence back home. Based on history lessons and textbooks we read today, we know just how poorly African Americans were treated during that time. Now that Dana has been placed exactly in that time period, she comes to realize what it would mean for her if she was to be found wandering the streets alone without free papers. She would be dragged onto a plantation and forced to endure hard labor as a slave whether or not she was actually free. Dana experiences the same feelings of fear her ancestors and slaves had felt back then.



“But he came back. He came back all week at breaks, at lunch.”

I think this part of the the book was a particularly interesting seen because we can see Kevin’s relationship with the narrator really begin to flourish. It was kind of strange how they first began interacting at the beginning of the scene, with Kevin just asking the narrator to accompany him to the truck and then surprising her with food. By giving her the food, it opened up a really serious and personal conversation between the two, where they both learned a lot about each other, their jobs as well as interests. We learn that the narrator was in a nursing program, and actually performed pretty well in school but simply didn’t have enough interest to continue on. We learned about her job, and her past jobs. And, I thought it was especially interesting because Kevin would come back whenever he could to see her. This was the start of them developing a potentially very special relationship and it started in such a sort of nonchalant way. It just seemed to be a casual lunch conversation, or Kevin providing the narrator with what he could to feed her and it ended up going significantly deeper than I had originally anticipated. I think this was a very interesting example of character relations growing.


Having a conversation with her ancestor

” As young as the boy was, I thought he would question my sanity if I told the truth. Alice Greenwood. How would she marry this boy? Or would it be marriage? And why hadn’t someone in my family mentioned that Rufus Weylin was white? ” p28

This quote was said by Dana when she meets Rufus again in his bedroom. As they talked and Dana learned more about him, she concluded that he was one of her ancestors. Somehow, Dana had went back in time to 1815 in Maryland and she is talking with her ancestor. When Rufus tells her his last name she thought it sounded familiar and when he spelled it out for her she confirmed that he was from her family line. She asks him about a girl named Alice and he says that she is a free black woman who is also his friend. Dana remembered about her family records, she recalls Grandmother Hagar Weylin who was born in 1831 and she listed her parents as Rufus Weylin and Alice Greenwood Weylin. Dana couldn’t tell Rufus about the situation she is in because Rufus probably wouldn’t believe her. In this quote Dana questions how Alice ended up with Rufus and questions if it even is marriage. Maybe it wasn’t a marriage, perhaps it was common for slave owners to rape their slaves. Maybe they fell in love and got married, Dana has many questions while being in 1815, but has no one to answer them.


Vanishing Dana

“Is it happening again?”
“I think so.” I sat very still, trying not to fall off my chair. The floor seemed farther away than it should have. I reached out for the table to steady myself, but before I could touch it, it was gone. And the distant floor seemed to darken and change. The linoleum tile became wood, par- tially carpeted. And the chair beneath me vanished. (page 19)

Kevin and Dana are moving into their new house. But during the move in Dana experiences dizziness and just vanishes. She appears next to a river and ends up saving a young boy, Rufus,  from drowning in the river. After saving him, she reappears back home and Kevin is very confused about what had just happened. But not just Kevin is confused, Dana is confused as well.

The author uses imagery in the passage above to visually show what Dana is experiencing. By describing the feelings and the imagines Dana sees during her vanishes, informs the reader just how strange and scary her vanishing episodes are. Additionally, imagery was used to show a mysterious and suspenseful mood the book has. By showing the things she sees as she vanishes creates suspense as we don’t know where she is going to end up in, we just know that everything around her is disappearing. Being able to be in Dana’s point of view can help the reader deduce what is causing her episodes. For example if its triggered only when she experiences a certain feeling?

But as if right now the reader doesn’t know what is causing her episodes just like the main character.



Edena’s confusion

He stared at the mud for a moment, then faced me. “You know how long you were gone?” “A few minutes. Not long.” “A few seconds. There were no more than ten or fifteen seconds between the time you went and the time you called my name.” “Oh, no …” I shook my head slowly. “All that couldn’t have happened in just seconds.”


At this point in the novel, we don’t know much about the narrator except for the fact that she has a relationship with Kevin. Immediately before this part of the book, Edena , the narrator, just saved Rufus who was not breathing.  Edena goes home to Kevin after saving Rufus’ life and is covered in mud. Kevin is confused by this because Edena was just screaming for Kevin to help her. He asks Edena how if she knew how long she was away and she said that she believed she was gone from a few minutes and at that moment it was clear to Kevin that there was something creepy going on.

This happening so early in the story sets a precedent for the rest of the story. It lets the reader know that this story will involve weird and magical twist throughout. It also relates back to the beginning of the novel when Edena didn’t have any idea what was going on and she was at a loss for words when questioned about what had happened to her arm. Already through the first 50 pages of the story there is the consistent theme of confusion and mystical powers.


Strength in Survival

“Unlike me, she was fine-boned, probably not as strong as she needed to be to survive in this era. But she was surviving, however painfully. Maybe she would help me learn how. ” (page 38)

     This quote comes from Dana as she describes Alice, her presumed ancestor. It best describes the fear Alice has from the previous events that have taken place. She compares herself physically to Alice and does not not see any physical commonalities, but rather the fear that the two have. She acknowledges that she is strong, for at a young age to see one’s father whipped and abused so harshly has to have some emotional repercussions, but she does not show it too much. Comparing the time she was in, or hallucinating to her own time period she thinks that Alice is ‘not as strong as she needed to be to survive this era’ , which was understandable for any individual. Although she knows that Alice has much to learn she wants to learn her survival tactics.
The way in which Dana describes Alice is very contradictory, as she states how Alice has much more to learn in order to survive yet ends it with stating how she hopes she can teach her how to survive. At Alice’s age, young children are naive and are not yet fully aware of the harsh realities. Although some more than others, Alice’s reaction to seeing her father whipped and dragged, was understandable and not dramatized. She was helpful as Dana needed her assistance to help her mother, which showed great strength. Alice hiding in the woods as the whites approached their house and yanked her parents out of bed was smart and showed she knew the brutalities that were to come.
I found this quote most significant because it demonstrates the strength needed to survive in that time period particularly to slaves. As well as show Dana’s feelings in that moment, she felt weak and fearful, similar to Alice. She knows in that moment that she is far weaker than her ancestors and is able to see the harsh reality that they faced.


The Realization

” She stopped, peered at me through the darkness. She was Alice, then. These people were my relatives, my ancestors. And this place could be my refuge.” pg 37

This is said at the end of the scene of Octavia E. Butler’s “Kindred” by Dana, who has gone back a century in time a second time, and has been brought upon 1815 in Maryland under the Weylin plantation.   Dana has just witnessed Alice’s father get beat and whipped for trespassing so he could see his family. Dana is disturbed by the physical torment done a couple feet away from her while she is flat on the ground hiding from the patrollers. Soon after Alice’s mom is punched in the face by one of the patrollers and is unconscious. Dana goes to help out Alice’s mother and while doing so Alice runs away and Dana yells “Alice” and that is when “she stopped” because of Alice stopping, she was in relief of having found her relatives which she realized when she met with Rufus. The significance in this quote is how after such impactful “time traveling” , Dana is now aware of why, and who these people she is helping are.

This quote is important to understand the whole text because it is now brought to our attention of who these recurring people are to Dana. It also gives Dana a sense of security for her future adventures because she knows that her family is going to be around her through these positions she is put in centuries back. She is aware of her current situation being in the time of Alice and Rufus’s childhood who are her great great …  grandparents. This also gives her a sense of being scared and cautious to kill anyone because it is possible she could change her family history.