| Study Guide for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler:
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KINDRED: PLOT SUMMARY / ANALYSIS
Dana is unable to eat the mush, which looks and tastes disgusting to
her. Luke tells her that they’ll get better food later after the scraps
from the white table are brought to the cookhouse. This makes Dana very
sad and also very worried, because the food is often covered with flies.
She knows that because of this problem, disease is rampant during this
time, and she has to be concerned for her own and Kevin’s safety. The
slaves in the cookhouse are very curious about her dress and the way she
talks. They think she acts too much like white folks. Dana tries to explain
her behavior by telling them her mother was a freeborn teacher, and she
had taught her the proper way to speak. Luke responds by warning her that
Master Tom doesn’t like slaves who are too educated and come from a free
state, because he doesn’t want slaves who know more than him to put ideas
into the heads of his other slaves. The conversation ends with a private
discussion with Nigel. He wants to know how Rufus can see Dana before
she arrives. She answers that she doesn’t know, but she wishes to heaven
When no one notices, Carrie, the mute slave, slips Dana some ham on some bread. Dana fears the ham hasn’t been cooked well enough, but the realization that she may be here for awhile makes her take the chance on it. Then, they hear screaming and know that the doctor has arrived to reset Rufus’ leg. Carrie is obviously bothered by his screams, so Sarah explains that Carrie always liked Rufus, who had protected her when the other children bothered her. Sarah also tells her that Carrie is her daughter, her fourth child, and the only one Weylin allowed her to keep. Carrie would have been sold, too, but she was believed to be defective because of her muteness. Dana knows that Weylin is lucky to be alive after selling Sarah’s children, and that if he were to sell Carrie, Sarah would probably kill him.
Kevin arrives and calls Dana to him to talk. They find a huge oak tree and they sit together. Kevin makes an ironic comment that there are so many more fascinating times they could have gone back to visit. Dana laughs, but without much humor. She fears for Kevin, because she knows that if they are separated and she goes home, he will be stranded there, perhaps for years. That worries her, but not as much as the thought that the violence of this world might rub off on him. Kevin goes on to explain that he made up a story about why they were in Maryland and why they were broke. He then offered Kevin a job as Rufus’ tutor. Kevin tells her also that since she is his “slave,” she will not be made to work. However, Dana knows that Weylin will find work for her to do. Besides, she wants work, because she needs to make a place for herself there and find friends, because Kevin might not be with her the next time she’s forced into the past. Kevin, however, hates the thought of her being forced to work, even though Dana has accepted it. Then, he tells her the lies he told Weylin: he is a writer from New York, and he’s traveling through the South doing research for a book. He has no money, because he was robbed when he drank with the wrong people. He says that he told the man that he bought Dana before he was robbed, because she could read and write. He felt she could help him in his research.
They then figure out why Weylin had been so mistrustful. He doesn’t like educated blacks, because he is so uneducated himself. He had warned Kevin that it was dangerous to keep an educated slave and that he should sell Dana to a trader heading for Georgia or Louisiana, before she ran away. Kevin had told him then that he planned to sell her in Louisiana at the end of his journey, and that Dana wasn’t likely to run away from him, because he had promised to free her when they returned to New York. All of that seemed to please Weylin, because Kevin had made himself seem as disgusting as Weylin himself. Kevin says that he had been trying to appeal to the humanity in Weylin with his lies, but Dana says the only humanity he will show is respect for Dana as Kevin’s private property. Kevin insists that he will do all he can to keep her from coming back here. Dana replies that they need to take out some insurance: they need to do everything they can to keep Rufus frButler Butler ing up to act like his father.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Kindred".
. 11 May 2008