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Study Guide for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler Analysis Synopsis

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Summary (Continued)


Sarah brews Rufus some tea that she has had limited success with in curing the ague, and Dana is struck by how old she looks. She had dropped a kettle on her foot and hadn’t been able to walk much for a while. Dana finally decides to try the Excedrin she had brought in her bag to help break Rufus’ fever and take the edge off his pain. It turns out that she has a long, hard night and six more just like it. During the time she nurses Rufus, Alice also comes in. She also looks older, but even more, she looks harder. She has lost two babies, and the one still alive is sickly. His name is Joe, and he is even redheaded like Rufus. Dana almost cries when she hears this, not just because she feels badly for Joe, but also because she knows that Hagar, her ancestor, hasn’t been born yet. She won’t be free of Rufus until that child is born.

Rufus has a monetary remission from his fever, but then it returns. Nonetheless, she continues to care for him night and day. At last, he gets well and stays well. A few days after, she’s allowed to return to the attic for some hard-won sleep. She does not wake up until the next morning and only then when Alice comes to the attic for her on the orders of Tom Weylin. The elder man is having chest pains, and Dana finds him lying in the parlor not breathing and with no pulse. She tries mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and even external heart massage, but nothing works. Tom Weylin is dead. She gets up and looks around to see Rufus on the floor. She doesn’t know how he made it there, but she bends down and tells him that his father has died. Rufus immediately blames Dana, saying she let him die. He damns her to hell, because he thinks she just allowed his father to die.


Dana puts herself back to work with Sarah and Carrie immediately to help herself adjust to life on the plantation again. Nigel and Carrie now have three sons. Nigel loves them dearly, but mourns the fact that they are slaves. She also sees how much Alice loves her sickly little boy. She tells Dana that Rufus had made her allow the doctor care for her two other children when they developed fevers. The man purged them and bled them, and Dana knows that those types of medical techniques are really what killed them. Alice now believes that, in spite of his good intentions in calling the doctor, Rufus is responsible for the deaths of her children. Dana thinks to herself that Rufus himself was soon to teach her about that attitude.

One day after Weylin is buried, Rufus decides to punish Dana for letting his father die. He sends the current overseer, Evan Fowler, to get her from the cookhouse. He has decided that she will work in the fields. She decides not to resist, especially with Rufus standing there watching, but she comes to regret her decision. She is given a sickle-like corn knife and herded to the field. Fowler explains how to chop the rows of corn, and Dana makes her first slash at the stalk. Fowler immediately lashes her hard across the back for her attempt. He continues to hit her in the breast and the back, and she realizes he’s worse than Weylin. Fowler is an animal. He tells her again how to chop the corn stalks, and Dana wonders if she should just allow him to kill her, so she can escape a place where people punish you for helping them. Another slave woman tells her slow down, and even take a lick or two from him, because if she works beyond herself that day, he will expect it every day, and she’ll kill herself. Fowler spends the whole day dogging her and her work, lashing her whenever he thinks she’s not working up to the right level. Finally, she can do no more and passes out, hoping in her last waking moment that she’s going home again.


Unfortunately, when she awakens, she sees Rufus’ face rather than Kevin’s. She gets to her feet, refusing his help, while he tells her that it’s obvious that she’s no good in the fields. She turns and stares at him in such a hard way that Rufus warns her not to do anything stupid. She answers him sarcastically that she’s done so many stupid things, like saving his life time after time. He justifies his behavior by declaring that he’d saved her from Fowler who might have beaten her to death. She responds to this by turning her back on him and walking toward the door of his room. He screams in response that she must never walk away from him again or he’ll send her back to the fields for good. Dana returns and sits at the desk where she takes three of the Excedrin she had left there. Then, she sits quietly while he screams at her again to talk to him. Dana can only exclaim that she has saved him repeatedly, and that he knows she did not let his father die. Rufus finally admits that that he knows everything she is saying is true and that he sent her to the fields, because he felt like he had to make someone pay.

Rufus then tells Dana that he wants her to care for his mother, who has never recovered from childbirth. Dana resists, reminding him that his mother doesn’t like and insisting that she knows nothing about caring for women’s problems. Rufus says that she’s much easier to deal with now, because she takes laudanum. Dana knows that taking laudanum means being a drug addict, because it’s an opium extract. She suggests Alice, but Rufus absolutely refuses, because Margaret hates Alice more than she does Dana, and Alice is due to have a baby in a few months anyway. This is at least some good news for Dana, because this baby might be Hagar. Rufus then leaves the room, promising to try to think of someone else he would accept as his mother’s caregiver. He also tells her to take the rest of the day off and allows her to read a book. It is his way of saying he’s sorry. Dana just shakes her head. Rufus is always sorry.


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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on Kindred". . 09 May 2017