Dana in Kindred by Octavia Butler

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In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Dana’s time-traveling ability complicates the reader’s ability to empathize with trauma. Due to the uncontrolled time traveling that places Dana’s body in scenarios that degrade her body. During the 1800’s, Dana’s body was being treated as an object rather than in the 1900’s where it was treated as a human. In the 1800’s she has to homogenize into the slave culture, meaning she has no say or right to the virtue of herself/body. In the novel time has its affects on her body in multiple ways, throughout the novel she must endure bodily punishments, hiding for safety, and the loss of her left arm.

Dana’s missing arm can be seen as symbolism for her struggle to truly disconnect from the trauma of the Antebellum South even after she returns home to the 1900s. Butler’s use of time travel to portray how living in the Antebellum South (1800s) and the 1900s affects the body in unpleasant, treacherous, and dicey ways. Within the prologue, Butler begins the novel by telling us the end of the book. In that one scene, Dana had lost an arm on her last time traveling experience to the Antebellum South. The narrator says, “I lost an arm on my last trip home” (11).

This quote appears just as Dana is finally leaving the 1800s in the book, and is important because it conveys the degree to which Dana has thought to leave the past and not comeback. The choice of the words “I lost an arm on my last trip home” emphasized that Dana was ready to let go of the Antebellum South, however, she does not lose her arm deliberately or intentionally. What the reader might suggest that the author does not describe, what is on the other side of the wall. The reader could interpret that they are left to make a hypothetical conclusion that the other side of the wall is the Antebellum South. Butler’s interpretation of the word “wall” represents the barrier of the Antebellum South and her time (1900s) that Dana is adhered in. In Butler’s novel, Kindred, during Dana’s time traveling to the nineteenth century, she is more exposed to her body getting beaten or raped.

In one scene, Dana mistakes her white husband Kevin as a slave master from the nineteenth century. The narrator says, “He came over to me, touched me tentatively as though he wasn’t sure I was real. I was shaking with fear, with residual terror that took all the strength out of me… I had never in my life panicked that way — never felt so close to death” (15). This quote occurs just as Dana gets back to her present life from time traveling for the first time from the nineteenth century, and it is important because it conveys the degree to which Dana is still mentally in the nineteenth century in which she experiences white men as slave masters.

Butler’s quote “touched me tentatively as though he wasn’t sure I was real” supports this idea by expressing that Dana’s is scared because she thinks Kevin is a slave master who will beat her. Furthermore, the following line “then he grabbed me by the shoulders and held me tightly” supports the idea that Dana’s time traveling has not just affected her, but also how she perceives her husband. The reader might think that when he holds her tightly, she continues to be fearful, although he is confused about how to respond to her fear.

Moreover, the phrase “I was shaking with fear, with residual terror that took all the strength out of me” is important because it conveys the degree to which Dana comes into her present life with the emotional effects of her life in the nineteenth century. The author’s use of the word “fear” emphasizes this idea because Dana experience of fear after coming from the nineteenth century shows how the use of her body begins the process of how time causes body manipulation. The reader might infer that “residual terror” shows how much Dana’s body is triggered by her white husband and coming from the nineteenth century where a white man would not usually be seen with a black woman unless it was within the context of a master and slave relationship.

Cite this paper

Dana in Kindred by Octavia Butler. (2021, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/dana-in-kindred-by-octavia-butler/



How is Dana resourceful in Kindred?
Dana is resourceful in Kindred because she is able to find a way to save her husband's life even though she is stuck in the past.
How would you describe Dana from kindred?
Dana is a strong and determined woman who has faced many challenges in her life. She is a loving mother and wife, and a loyal friend.
What happens to Dana in Kindred?
Dana is transported from 1976 Baltimore back to the antebellum South, where she meets her ancestor Rufus. Over the course of the novel, Dana begins to understand her family's history and her own place in it.
What is the connection between Dana and Alice?
Alice functions as a mirror for Dana, and Butler creates notable similarities between them. Alice is Dana's ancestor , and the two women look alike.
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