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Review of Octavia E. Butler's Book ‘Kindred’

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“Rufus had done exactly what he said he would do: Gotten possession of the woman without having to bother her husband. Now, somehow, Alice would have to accept not only the loss of her husband, but her own enslavement. Rufus had caused her trouble and now he had been rewarded for it” (149). This quote from the book ‘Kindred’ reveals the powerful theme of the corruption of power, after Rufus inherits the plantation, he gains a lot of power over the lives of many people. He begins to feel superior to the people and believes that he has the right to control their lives, this causes him to become malicious and oppressive, especially towards the slaves.

‘Kindred’ is about a modern woman named Dana, who travels back in time to the antebellum south, to save her white slave owning ancestor Rufus Weylin, a white man who starts her bloodline. There are many memorable characters, but the two that stand out are Dana and Alice. Dana Franklin is an educated and progressive young black woman who lives in the modern world. She’s a twenty-six year old writer who moves into a house in Altadena, California, with her white husband Kevin. On her twenty-sixth birthday, while unpacking and shelving her books, Dana starts to feel dizzy and nauseated. When Kevin reaches out to help her, she disappears and gets transported to the antebellum south. Alice Greenwood is Dana’s great grandmother who is born a free black. She later on becomes a slave of the Weylin plantation, after Rufus arranges for her to be his slave.

Rufus makes Alice his slave, because she falls in love with a slave named Isaac James, he does not like this, because he loves her too. Rufus has had an obsessive love for Alice ever since they were kids, therefore he becomes jealous when Alice does not return his love for her. Rufus attempts to break Alice and Isaac up, but he fails, because they run away together. A few days later they’re caught, whipped, and beaten by dogs. Alice is turned into a slave for her reckless behavior while Isaac is sold for attempting to escape. It is important to look at the similarities and differences of these two characters in order to show the theme of the corruption of power.

The characters of Dana Franklin and Alice Greenwood share several characteristics. The first similarity is that they are both women who were born free and are now enslaved and unwillingly controlled by Rufus. Rufus bought Alice so he could try to control her and make her love him, knowing that she never will. Rufus says, “I know you, Dana. You want Kevin the way I want Alice. And you had more luck than I did because no matter what happens now, for a while he wanted you too. Maybe I can’t ever have that-both wanting, both loving. But I’m not going to give up what I can have” (163). This shows how obsessed Rufus is with Alice, he says he will not let her go and he doesn’t, even though she fears him. Rufus forces Alice to submit to him sexually and makes her bear his children multiple times, so that he can have full control over her. Similar to Alice Dana, is also a free black woman that is unwillingly controlled by Rufus. Dana is repeatedly summoned by Rufus to save him against her will and when she gets transported back to the past she assumes the role of a slave. At one point Dana has to pretend to be her husband Kevin’s enslaved mistress. In conclusion Dana and Alice are similar because they are both free-born woman who are tormented and forced into slavery by Rufus.

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Another similarity between Dana and Alice is their fight for freedom. Dana is a modern woman, a free woman, a woman who believes in fighting for freedom. When Dana gets transported back in time, she assumes the role of a slave. Dana is willing to almost kill herself and be violent to her own body in order to regain her freedom. An example of this is when Dana slits her wrists (239). Rufus gets jealous when he sees Sam James; a slave, getting too friendly with Dana, as punishment he sells Sam.Dana tries to stop him, but this angers him even more, which in turn causes him to punch her in the face. Because of this Dana realizes that the only way to be free of Rufus suicide, so she slits her wrists and awakes in 1976, the present. Like Dana, Alice also believes in fighting for freedom. Alice ran away from the plantation because she does not trust Rufus when he says he wants to free their children and send Joe to school in the North. She says that Rufus’ promise is only good if its written and she cannot bear how he uses her children to control her, so she plans to run away. Unfortunately, Alice gets caught and whipped, while trying to escape. Rufus sends her children away and tells her that he sold them. Now that her kids are gone, Alice remembers something her mom had said, “Mama said she’d rather die than be a slave” (157). Alice realizes that she too believes that the only way to be freed from slavery is suicide. Her kids being sold is the last straw for her, she has nothing to cherish and nothing to look forward to but her own enslavement, and she cannot let Rufus control her any longer, so she hangs herself. In conclusion, Dana and Alice are similar because of their willingness to do whatever is necessary to be free of Rufus.

Although the characters of Dana and Alice share many similarities, they’re different in many ways. First, they are different because Dana’s environment allows her free will to do as she wishes while Alice’s environment suppresses and abuses her. Dana is a modern woman living in a progressive world that allows her to be free. She is willingly married to a white man named Kevin, whom her family does not approve of. This causes Dana to be estranged from her closest family members, yet she still has the right to control her own life. Contrary to Dana’s relationship with Kevin, which is intentional, Alice’s relationship with Rufus, a white plantation owner, is coerced. Rufus, who is obsessed with Alice, treats her as an object to possess rather than a lover. Rufus attempts to control Alice by raping her. When Dana goes back in the past after a brawl between Rufus and Alice’s husband Isaac, she realizes that Rufus may have raped her great grandmother. Dana states, “The girl, her torn dress. If everything was as it seemed Rufus had earned his beatings and more” (117-18). Alice later confirms Dana’s suspicions and says that Rufus had “wanted to be more friendly than she did” (120). In conclusion the characters of Dana and Alice are different because of the environment they live in. Dana’s contemporary environment allows her freedom and self preservation whereas Alice’s slavery environment restrains her from being a subject of her own right.

Another difference between Dana and Alice is they way they get treated by Rufus. Dana gets treated better because Rufus likes that she’s well educated, she stands up to him, and he knows that he is dependent on her, therefore she has a degree of control over her life. Alice on the other hand gets treated horribly because she is an uneducated black woman, to add to that a slave who cannot do anything to defend herself. Rufus treats Dana better than the other slaves in the novel because he knows he needs her for self preservation, he needs to keep Dana alive in order for her to keep him alive, they are dependent on each other. Another reason why Rufus treats Dana better is because in a way he loves her, he likes how intelligent and strong minded she is. He also likes how she does not back down from him, she proves this by calling him by his name and not master like the other slaves, which makes their relationship an unusual slave-master relationship. Unlike Dana, Rufus’ treatment of Alice is deplorable. Rufus tries to control Alice, force her to love him, and punish her for attempting to escape from him. He rapes Alice multiple times and forces her to submit to him. An example of this is when Alice tells Dana, “He likes me in bed, and you out of bed, and you and I look alike if you can believe what people say” (228). In conclusion we can predict from the quote above that Rufus loves both Alice and Dana but he does not know how to properly treat them the way they deserve to be treated, due to the environment they live in.

Step in someone’s shoes to get rid of ignorance. Analyzing the similarities and differences of these two characters in ‘Kindred’ will help readers understand this book and its theme on a deeper level. I really loved ‘Kindred’ because it dives deep into the complex relationship between slave masters and the black women they enslaved. This book is definitely worth reading. I would give it a five star review.

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Review of Octavia E. Butler’s Book ‘Kindred’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“Review of Octavia E. Butler’s Book ‘Kindred’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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