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Study Guide for the book Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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Summary (Continued)


Unfortunately for Dana, Margaret only wants her. She arrives thin, pale, and weak, older than her years. She sips contentedly from a small brown bottle of laudanum, and it makes her full of charity and sweetness. She tells Dana that she wants her as a caregiver, because she reads so well. So Dana sits down and reads from the Bible, and that is the first full day with Miss Margaret. However, she always has something for Dana to do, which is her way of regaining control over her house. She insists on teaching Dana to sew, an activity that is long and boring to Dana. As a result, Dana often lies or learns to take longer doing some of Margaret’s other chores just to avoid her. Fortunately, troublesome as Margaret is, she has definitely mellowed. Unfortunately, some of the other slaves resent Dana for having such an easy job. Alice is the first one to criticize her for acting like she loves the woman, and then, when she goes into the cookhouse, two field hands in there actually turn their backs on her. Dana, however, just accepts the resentment thrown her way, even though she wonders why she does. She turns to go towards the woods and act as if she hasn’t heard Margaret’s cane tapping on the floor to call her to her. She sees a coffle arrive. It is a group of slaves chained together on their way to be sold. She thinks of Rufus spending his time with his father’s affairs, never having time for Dana or even his mother, but now having time to sell his slaves. When she gets closer to the house, she sees two male slaves and one woman. Dana is aghast to see the woman is Tess. She walks almost in a daze toward Tess as if to take the rope from around her neck. Tess never even looks up while Rufus forces Dana to walk away. She leaves as he orders but accosts him when the slaves are gone. She demands to know how he could do this, and his answer is, “They’re my property.” She stares at him in disbelief, especially because she had tried so hard to make him understand that he shouldn’t ever sell his slaves. He walks away with no answer to her sorrow.


Dana meets up with Carrie as she staggers back into the house. She tells the mute woman that Rufus is no good, and that she should have left him lying in the mud. Carrie vigorously shakes her head and mimes the idea that if Rufus had died, his mother would be in charge and would have sold all the slaves. Carrie finishes the conversation by rubbing her face. Dana doesn’t understand what she means so they go to Nigel who tells Dana that the gesture means the black never comes off. She is not white, no matter what anyone says. She is black and good to her people.


Dana avoids Rufus for three days after the sale, and it’s easy, because he avoids her, too. He finally finds her on the fourth day and makes her allow Carrie to care for his mother. He has something else for her to do. He has her bring one of the pens she had brought with her from the future in her tote. He asks her if she has ever heard of dengue fever. She has not, but Rufus says the doctor in town has diagnosed him with it. She tells him not to put himself in the hands of the doctor or he will solve all their problems. Rufus knows she means that they’d be better off if he were dead. He asks her if she knows what would happen to the people on the plantation if he died. Her answer is to ask him what will happen to them if he lives. He changes the subject then to tell her that he needs her to write some letters for him. He has even bought enough paper to allow her to begin writing again. He knows from Kevin that Dana is an author, and this is a gift to her. She asks Rufus if he’s going to sell any more slaves. He answers that he hopes not, but that his father left debts that have to be paid. Now he needs her to write some very persuasive letters to the men his father owes.


Dana writes Rufus’ letters, and she never gets back full-time to Margaret Weylin. She does sleep with her at night to allow Carrie to go home to her family. One night, Margaret awakens her to ask why Rufus keeps Dana away. Dana tells her why, and she suspiciously responds that it is something Rufus could do himself. Dana thinks so, too, but she knows that Rufus just doesn’t like to work alone. One night, after he had been in town for a while, he comes back to find Dana and Alice eating together. When he sees them, he proclaims, “Behold the woman. You are really only one woman. Did you know that?” After he stumbles away, Dana expects Alice to laugh at him, but instead she asks Dana if she has ever gone to bed with Rufus. Dana responds vehemently that neither of them wants that. Alice says it’s good for her when Dana is there, because she gentles him, and he doesn’t hit her. She finally remarks that she understands what Rufus meant when he said the two of them are one woman: they look alike, and he likes Alice in bed and Dana out of bed. They’re two halves of the same woman in his crazy head.


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Study Guide for the book Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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