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Study Guide for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler Analysis Synopsis

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Summary (Continued)


The time passes slowly, but uneventfully, as Dana waits for the birth of the child she hopes is Hagar. She goes on helping Rufus and his mother and begins to keep a journal in shorthand so Rufus cannot read it. Finally, one of her secretarial classes comes in handy! She tries husking corn with the field hands, who seem to be making a party of it. Rufus has given them whiskey to help it along. One of the men, huge and muscular, declares that it’s too bad she is already spoken for, and Rufus comes out to play at the hero for giving them the whiskey and food. They praise him while he’s there, and when he leaves, they make gross jokes about him. Dana realizes that they like him, hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time.

At Christmas, there is another party and three marriages. Instead of jumping the broom, Rufus actually brings in a magistrate to marry the couples. He asks Dana if she wants to jump the broom. To which Dana asks what he would do if she did. He replies that he would sell the man she wanted to marry. It’s a warning to Dana once again. Later, she asks Rufus if he would allow her to teach his son, Joe, to read and write. Rufus gives in as a Christmas present to Dana and she begins to teach the boy. She later tells Rufus that Joe is a “damn bright little kid” which surprises Rufus. Now, he begins to take an interest in the boy. Rufus later tells Dana that Alice has asked him to free Joe. Of course, Rufus holds out Joe’s freedom as bargaining chip for himself. He wants Alice to be more like Dana; that is, he wants the woman to like him or even come to love him. Alice finds this contemptible, although she would try to do it, if only Rufus would put his promise down on paper. She says that she doesn’t mean to spend her life there, only to watch her children grow up in slavery and maybe be sold. She tells Dana that she means to go, once she is strong enough after the baby is born. She wants Dana to get her some of Margaret’s laudanum as a way to keep the baby quiet when she runs. Dana agrees, but reminds Alice of what could happen to Joe and the baby if the dogs catch up to them.


Alice’s new baby is a girl. She and Rufus name her Hagar. It’s the most beautiful name Dana has ever heard. The names of Alice’s children are symbolic of the freedom Dana longs for as much as Alice does. So Dana is elated, but even though she now knows her family line is safe, there is still danger to her personally. She is still not free. Alice approaches Dana again, demanding that she get the laudanum. Dana tries to persuade her that she keep working on Rufus the way she has, and soon she will have whatever she wants. But Alice breaks down in tears, saying that he’ll never let any of them go. She warns Dana that she has to help her or she’ll see herself for the “white nigger” that she is.

Later, Dana asks Rufus if he means to free Joe. Rufus tells her that he wants to send the boy to school up North. However, Alice doesn’t believe Dana, because Rufus still refuses to put it all on paper. She tells Dana that he uses the children just the way you use a bit on a horse, and she’s tired of having a bit in her mouth.


Dana plans to stay on the plantation herself until Alice leaves just to find out whether she makes it. In the meantime, she talks Rufus into allowing her to teach Nigel’s two older sons as well as Joe. She is surprised how much the boys love to learn. Rufus’ neighbors warn him about educating his slaves. Even the Methodist minister is concerned that it will make them disobedient. Alice is waiting patiently, using discretion about her desire to run, and feeling guilty, because she is finally beginning to have some feeling for Rufus.

Dana is approached one day in the cookhouse by Sam Jones, the large black slave who had admired her at the parties. He doesn’t want to court her. He just wants her to teach his brother and sister. She can’t agree then and there and tells him not to approach her again. He asks her if she really wants to be with that “white man.” She vehemently replies that just like the slaves in the fields, she does what she has to in order to stay alive. So Sam leaves, completely innocent of doing anything wrong. Nonetheless, three days later, a trader leads him away in chains. Dana struggles with Rufus as the coffle is chained in the yard, trying to make him understand that Sam had done nothing wrong. One of his family members calls Dana a whore for not leaving her brother alone. She grabs Rufus by the hand to beg him to reconsider, but he just hits her. That is the breaking of the unspoken agreement between them, and he knows it. Nonetheless, Rufus orders her into the house. Dana deliberately disobeys and goes straight to the cookhouse. There, she heats water to a warm stage and takes a basin of it up to the attic. She washes her knife in antiseptic and in the warm water, she cuts her wrists.


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