Study Guide for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler Analysis Synopsis

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The Horrors of Slavery

The first important theme is that of the horrors of slavery. Dana is forced into the past where she sees people bought and sold, sees families torn apart, and experiences torture at the hands of her owner. This terrible institution will also come to tear apart our country in the Civil War while Dana experiences its consequences on a personal level. It is important to note that the idea of acceptance of this institution invades the white and the black population alike. Whites grow up to believe that slavery is part of their entitlement as the superior race, while blacks accept it, because the white race has conditioned them to believe that it is their only option in life. They become too afraid of the whip or of being sold to a state further south to attempt escape. They are resigned to being property.

The Idea of Obsessive Love

The second important theme involves the idea of obsessive love. Rufus comes to rely so completely on Dana that when she returns to future, he falls apart. He cant allow her or Alice to leave him and as a result, he impacts upon them in the most destructive ways. The whole system of slavery is also an example of obsessive love. The entitled white owners cannot let go of the power they achieve as slave owners, while the slaves themselves are conditioned to believe their white owners to survive.


The final theme is that of the human need to be free. Even though they are conditioned to believe they cannot escape, every slave wants freedom. Some are more willing to tempt the fates and run for Pennsylvania, but they all dream of a life where they are in control of everything that happens to them. It is especially true for Dana and Alice, both of whom dream of lives away from Rufus. It is even true for Rufus who wants a life where both Dana and Alice like him and love him. He wants freed from being just a plantation owner and wants to live accepted by those he loves.


The mood is mostly dark, because of the people who are held in slavery and the impact of both Tom and Rufus Weylin on them. There is always the fear of torture and of being sold to a state even further south. For Dana, there is the fear of never finding Kevin again and going home. However, in the end, there is a sense of hope that at least Dana assured that Hagar would be born, and she and Kevin are sane and well, now that Rufus is dead.

Octavia E. Butler - BIOGRAPHY

Octavia Butler was born on June 22, 1947 in Pasadena, California. Her father (Laurice) died when she was an infant and she was raised by her mother and grandmother. Her mother was also named Octavia and she worked as a maid.

She received the nickname Junie, because she was the junior to her mother Octavia and she was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. She began writing stories when she was a young girl and soon became interested in science fiction. She went to college at Pasadena City College and received an associate degree. She then went to UCLA, but she never completed her degree as writing became more important to her.

She died suddenly, due to a fall at her home, at the age of 58 on February 24, 2006.

Best known as the author of the Patternist series of science fiction novels. This refers to her goal of exploring such ideas as sexual identity and racial conflict in a literary genre like science fiction, that would normally not speak to such ideas. She grew up in a racially mixed neighborhood in Pasadena, California. Her mother recognized her writing ability early and worked two jobs to buy her a typewriter and pay for an agent. She also attended writing workshops, which allowed her to sell her first science fiction stories. She has written many science fiction novels that explore the theme of the impact of race and sex upon a future society. Among her many strengths is her ability to create believable, independent female characters. They are powerful and purposeful, seeking to create a society that is not racist or sexist.

Octavia was the recipient of a MacArthur Award and a Nebula Award, and twice won the Hugo Award. Kindred was published in 1979. In it, she hoped to get the feeling of actual slavery across to those without knowledge. She said in an interview: "I was trying to get people to feel slavery," "I was trying to get across the kind of emotional and psychological stones that slavery threw at people."

Works by Octavia Butler include:

Kindred (1979)

The Patternist series
Mind of My Mind
Wild Seed (1980)
Clay's Ark

Xenogenesis Trilogy
Adulthood Rites

Parable of the Sower Series
Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Talents


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