Kindred the novel
Regina Tyler History 101 November 27,2013 In the novel Kindred Butler confronts us with differences of black and white and past and present. All of the issues in Kindred are derived from issues of black and white. Dana’s race and literacy is what defines her in the 1800’s in Maryland and in 1976 in California. As a reader I’m yanked between past and present as well as the characters Dana and Kevin. Dana and her husband are forced to experience slavery in Maryland and their home in California seems far gone.
We are all affected by the legacy of slavery in one way or another, whether we know it or not. Whites and blacks are affected by the past and present types of racism. In some way we are all connected to slavery and Dana finds that out when she is taken back to the 1800’s. The past stereotypes of blacks in the 1800’s are still imbedded in our thoughts a hundred years later.
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Race was a key motif in the novel, which was expected since the novel is about slavery. Dana was married toa white man named Kevin in 1976 then pulled into the 1800’s where a black woman marrying a black man was unheard of.
Dana’s intelligence made her experience in the 1800’s different from other slaves. They couldn’t understand how she was so intelligent since blacks were seen as inhumane and unintelligent. Race is what links Dana to the other slaves although they wanted to let her know that she was no different from them. Carrie rubbed Dana’s face to show her know that her skin color does not come off. The slaves on the Weylin plantation saw Dana as the house-nigger, handkerchief-head, and the female Uncle Tom. Her intellect and connection with Rufus is what made her seem as such.
She was looked at as the house-nigger because she worked in the house cleaning and eaching Rufus and never on the field. Handkerchief-head is what the slaves called her because they didn’t feel like she identified with them, but only identified with whites. The slaves didn’t know her reason for being so close with the master’s son or why she was so educated but what they did know was that she represented all those stereotypes. As a young boy Rufus was very powerless and compassionate. Even though he felt like his skin made him superior to blacks he still had friendships with black children Alice and Nigel.
Upon the second meeting between Dana and Rufus which was the ire Dana tries to get Rufus to not see a difference between blacks and whites and to respect blacks the way he wanted them to respect him. Dana also learns that she is related to Rufus the second time they met. As Rufus gets older her inherits to role as a slave owner and his need for power takes over. With power comes the need for more power so he turns on his friends and abuses Alice and treats Nigel as an interior. Rutus tried to prove his power over Dana by conning ner to give up ner pen, write letters that he would never mail, and even burning her map.
Slave’s power was based on types of labor. Dana had little power despite the fact that she was a house- nigger and an educated black. House servants had far more power than the field workers. Rufus sent Dana to the field where she was whipped to prove a point. Intellect or the type of labor she did still couldn’t stop her from being beat. Black and white women were inferior to all white men in the 1800’s. In 1976 Dana faces issues with race and slavery before she was ever brought back to the past of the 1800’s. In Dana’s time she worked but it was like slavery because of the low paying no benefits Job also known as wage slavery.
Some people never escape wage slavery but since Dana was literate and determined she was able to rise above it by writing stories. Just as in the 1800’s being literate is what gave her a better life on the plantation because the Weylin’s recognized that she was educated and different from all the other blacks theyVe came across. Dana was punished for teaching the slaves how to read but it was okay for her to teach Rufus how to read as well as his children so they can have better lives. When Dana decided to marry Kevin who was a white man they both experienced racial prejudice from their own family.
Kevin thought his sister would accept him marrying a black woman but to his surprise she did not approve. His sister says “That she didn’t want to meet you, wouldn’t have you in her house-or me either if I married you. ” (Butler 110) Dana knew her aunt and uncle weren’t too fond of white people. Her aunt didn’t like whites but she preferred light skinned blacks “l think my aunt accepts the idea of marrying you because any children we have will be light. ” (Butler 1 1 1) The stereotype that light skinned blacks are less inferior to dark skinned blacks presents itself again.
Just as in the 1800’s in Maryland the lighter blacks were the house-niggers while the darker blacks worked the field. Dana’s aunt felt as if the children would have more opportunities because they would be light. Despite how others felt about their relationship they still decided to get married. The past and present affected both Kevin and Dana, even though Kevin was white he still came across difficulties coping with the harsh ways of slavery. ” And if I felt that way after spending only short periods in the past, what must Kevin be feeling after five years.
His white skin aved him from much trouble I had faced, but still, he couldn’t have had an easy time. ” (Butler 191) While Dana experienced what it was like to be a slave, Kevin saw what slaves had to go through to survive. Kevin saw things that Dana haven’t seen during the slavery period. Dana and Kevin endured brutalities of slave life yet they still felt like observers rather than participants because they struggled with accepting what wasn’t normal for them. “This woman’s master strung her up by her wrist and beat her until the baby came out of her- dropped onto the ground. ” (Butler 191) .
There were slave masters far more worse than Tom Weylin When Kevin came back to California after five years he took a while to adjust to modern life. “l feel like this is another stopover. ” Home didn’t feel like home to him, he never got time to settle in his new apartment because he was only there for two days and he traveled so many places for so long that his home was never home. The Television and typewriter seemed all so new to him, everything was different and modern. Dana didn’t feel like ner nome in Calitornia was really nome either. “l nad been nome to 1 adn’t felt that homelike. (Butler 191) Her home in Maryland has really become her present which made her California home seem like the past. The dichotomies of past and present in Kindred were artificial to the reader but not the characters Dana and Kevin. They were artificial because people don’t Just Jump from past to present the way Dana did, theyre gradually put into that different era. It’s impossible to live in both of those time eras because of the huge time difference. We might hear stories from our ancestors about the past but are never able to go back and live it ourselves.
For Dana the experience from the past was useful because it helped her find out about her ancestors and also because she was able to see for herself the awful ways of slavery. She underestimated the intensity of slavery because she never lived in that time. The difference between black and white and past and present played a major part of Dana’s life. Dana losing her arm as she emerges for the last time from the past was very significant. Slaves suffered physical and emotional abuse because of their slave owners. Losing her arm shows that blacks in 1979 are removed from slavery but they till carry the hurt within them.