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«Kindred» by Otavia Butler


Slavery is generally considered as a practice of the past that has no meaning in the modern society. However, this is not the case considering many cases that occur and only a few of them are reported. There are new forms of slavery that have emerged in the contemporary society in which the manipulator uses power and the advantage that he or she has to harass the victim. The reason why many of these cases are common yet not reported is because; the victim draws some benefit from the manipulator which is the reason for their survival. The fight against such slavery can only be won when each and every individual takes responsibility for their lives.

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The novel, kindred is a story about the life of a black lady by the name of Dana who lives in America. In the story, Dana experiences slavery in two different forms, one that is direct and the other one in an indirect form. Dana who is twenty six years is married to a white man, Kevin Franklin and they are both authors. Dana goes to antebellum south through her medical knowledge and assists Rufus and other slaves. In her struggle to resist the torture that comes with slavery, she sustains injuries that include lose of her arm. In her effort to forget and prevent the past torture from recurring, she kills Rufus who was the first white slave master she encountered (Butler, 2004).

The story generally reflects a scenario of slavery and the challenges that the slaves go through. It also reveals the different efforts by the slaves to overcome the pain and harassment they have to go through. Dana who is the main character in the story is presented as a woman of integrity who tries to protect herself. He is however found in some confusing conditions when she has to differentiate between fulfilling her obligation as a married woman and protecting her dignity. She finds that in both cases she is being manipulated and the only difference is the relationship that she shares with the manipulator. Even though she finds a loving husband of whom they share a similar past, she finds it difficult to be convinced that he is not similar to her manipulator. The reason for this behavior is that both parties are white and it makes her figure the nature and character of her past manipulator. On the other hand, Dana’s husband feels that she owns her and is therefore free to treat her the way he likes.

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Even though Dana is a free woman, she can not run away from the pain of slavery that was experienced in the past. She has to move from different regions working without pay and appreciation. She gladly stretches her hand to help, but the purity of her help sublimes when she sees the kind of torture that faces the people of her race. Freedom in this context is only theoretical but the psychological pain is evident (Butler, 2004). The marriage between Dana and Kevin is out of free will and acceptance, yet they face opposition from their family members who feel that interracial relations cannot work. Kevin’s sister was not ready to accept Dana into the family, which even made her dislike the brother because of her decision to marry a black woman. Dana’s uncle on the other hand wanted a black man for Dana. Physically Dana is married to Kevin but psychologically it is a slave-master relationship

Kevin’s’ marriage to Dana was with the aim of possessing her and making her serve him just as she wished. Similar to the relationship that Dana had with Rufus, she had been possessed by him and had to do all the work that she was given. She had no freedom to choose what she wanted to do. The same situations and circumstances reflected with her husband Kevin of whom he had to serve without any complain. To avoid such psychological strain of trying to figure out whether Kevin was her husband or master, she starts appreciating the fact that Kevin has possessed her as a slave and enjoys the relationship.

White men in this story are depicted as oppressors. No matter the kind of relationship they share with the women around them. To them a woman is a property that they own and they are free to treat them in the way that seems right to them. Rufus who is a slave owner had possessed Dana and mistreated her. This was the past pain that Dana experienced from a white man that is affecting her marriage. Whenever she gets closer to Kevin, the memories of Rufus and his ruthless treatment comes to her mind. She sustained bruises from this man which acts as an evidence of her past life (Butler, 2004). At some point she mistakes Kevin for Rufus. Rufus who has bought Alice as her slave treats her ruthlessly. Alice has come to accept the fact that since Rufus has paid for her; he is free to use her in any way, sexually and also to in a violent manner. However, when her husband Isaac Jackson discovers that Rufus was trying to rape her wife, he beats him up an incidence that makes Isaac to be separated from Alice after he was beaten and sold. In his relationship with Alice, she gives birth to Joe Weylin a child that is later taken away from her by Rufus. Alice is so much affected by this that she commits suicide.

Even though there are black men who are slaves like Nigel, Luke, Sam James, Isaac Jackson and Jake Edwards, they are given higher responsibilities of managing other slaves. They do not go through the psychological pain as their female counterparts, if they had to suffer pain, it is only physical. Even though they are also black, they mistreat the black females that are under them. One incidence of such torture is when Jake Edwards forces Dana to do the laundry by threatening to whip her. To the women in the story, submission to each and every need of these men was not a matter of choice. They either had to submit to their needs or face whipping. In the process of Dana trying to resist the torture of being forced to submit to Rufus demands, she lost her hand and the only way of forgetting the pain caused by Rufus was to kill him.

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Even though this story can be looked at as a fairy tale, it is a true reflection of how most people are still bound by their background. Freedom has been preached, fought and achieved by many people, yet it is only the physical part. Many more people continue to suffer in the hands of the people whom they expect to guard and take care of them (Cahill, 2003).There are many people that are still bound, but because of the situations that surround them, they have come to accept it as part and parcel of their life. There are others yet who know that they are bound but because of the benefits they get from the relationship, they hold on to it no matter how much pain they go through.

Many women have to go through psychological torture imposed to them by the men they relate to as their husbands. Most of these men take advantage of the fact that they paid a fee to marry them and that alone qualifies them to be their property. A man will therefore treat her woman the same way he treats his property. He will use it and discard it when he feels it is not valuable. A perfect example from the story is Alice who gets a child through rape and later on not only damped but also denied the possession of her child. The pain made her to commit suicide which is a reflection of what some women do when the level of torture reaches its peak.

Due to the fact that some of these women depend on their husbands to provide for them almost everything, they will not have the courage to speak out due to the fear of loosing their security (Akbar, 1984). Some are still bound in the tradition of accepting and doing anything that men tell them to do. They are denied the ability to make decisions and even to own property. It is also clear from the story that unlike women, men are free to do whatever they wish without being questioned. There are several incidences of extra marital relationships on the part of men. Their wives who may come to notice this may do nothing much rather than quarrel among themselves.


Slavery and ownerships is not only something of the past, but also exists in the contemporary world. The only difference is that in the past it was being done openly and people could see it happen. The bondage that many people are yet to recover from is the pain they have to endure psychologically in order to survive. Pain has become an order that will make them live. They may have nobody to speak to due to the relationship they share with the person who is torturing them.


Akbar N. (1984): Chains and images of psychological slavery New Mind Productions.

Butler E. (2004): Kindred: Beacon Press.

Cahill M. (2003): Traditions, values, and humanitarian action: Fordham University Press.

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