Kindred has many themes as a novel. Time travel and slavery are two of the most important themes throughout the book to me. The protagonist Dana is a smart, black, independent woman of her time. She is married to Kevin,who is a white man. They have a interacial marriage that is somewhat looked down upon. In this essay I will discuss how and why time travel was portrayed in this book among other sources.
One day, main character Dana travels from her life in L.A. in 1976 to the Antebellum South; to a plantation in Maryland 1815. She journeys back in time several occasions to ensure the survival of Rufus Weylin, a white child that throughout the novel becomes an explosive slaveholder. Why does Dana keep going back in time to try and save Rufus? He in fact, turns out to be one of Dana’s ancestors. Across the novel she has no choice but to help this relative, because without his existence she and her family would never come to be. Dana takes both the psychological and physical burden of helping Rufus.
Dana with every time travel tries to prevent Rufus from accepting and practicing his role as a slaveholder while struggling to make sense of the conflicting time period. In “Kindred”, Octavia Butler represents the ongoing struggle of slavery through time travel. Dana travels back and forth in time, but Butler never gives a real explanation to how it happens. She only focuses on what happens, thanks to Dana’s fantastic trips. Butler argues that Dana slowly accepts slavery as she accepted her journeys through time and space. Why doesn’t Dana try harder to figure out how she keeps jumping in time ? Dana’s slow acceptance can be seen throughout the book. At first, when Dana realizes that she is traveling through time, she can’t believe it. She even says that she doesn’t have a “name for it”. She doesn’t believe that she is actually going to 1815 and back. Time travel is something fantastic, something that only appears in movies and science fiction. Even for her time it’s something completely impossible, something unthinkable.
In Kindred a motif of a paradox is used. Like stated before the author never explains why time travel would just suddenly happen to Dana. This is a realization for us as readers that the author doesn’t need to explain it. Her purpose was beyond the science fiction of this story. It is ultimately more about the history and the psychology of the characters impacted by the history. This is a paradox, because time travel isn’t an ordinary aspect of life, but yet Butler makes it seem ordinary and acceptable.
On Dana’s last time returning to the present from the past she loses one of her arms. Remembering that the whole motif of this time traveling is designed to force us as readers to experience slavery and its grim realities first hand, just as Dana was forced to experience them. We are not able to enjoy them from the luxury of our homes, and the way that the two radically different time periods are juxtaposed forces us to confront the horrors of slavery, just as Dana so often has to struggle to accept what is going on in spite of her 21st century values. Dana is profoundly changed by her experience of living out the reality of slavery in the past, and this is reflected by her amputated arm.thus giving us trauma through time travel.