Study Guide for Kindred by Octavia E. Butler Analysis Synopsis

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Dana regains consciousness on her living room floor with Kevin bending over her. They have made it home! Even though sheís in terrible pain from her beating, Dana speaks softly to her husband, who has been gone for five years from his perspective, to come to bed with her. Eventually, they sleep after coming together in a mixture of pain and relief and love.

Unfortunately, Kevin has a hard time adjusting to living in 1976. Heís irritated at how much he has forgotten and the feeling that heís not really at home. After all, he and Dana had spent only two days in their new house before the return to the past began. He also has trouble forgetting the horrors he had witnessed in the five years he spent in the past. He saw a woman die in childbirth, but in a horrific childbirth, where she was strung up by her wrists and beaten until her baby dropped out of her onto the ground. He feels like heís just on another stopover, like Philadelphia, Boston, and Maine, and he canít get over how easy everything is in 1976. Further, he had grown a beard as a disguise, because he had been accused of helping slaves escape. He was helping the slaves escape, but his altruism didnít help him ease his fear about what might happen to him if he were caught. Now, he walks around his office smashing and breaking things and stalking out of the room with a glare on his face for Dana. She comforts him with the thought that it will all come together again, if he just gives it time. However, even when she says that through it all she didnít want to be alive if she couldnít find him again, he pulls away from her with something ugly and closed up on his face. Kevin has grown old with new lines in his face and bitterness in his heart.

Dana has to leave Kevin alone to deal with his feelings and packs her tote for the possibility of a return to Rufus. In her thoughts are her hopes that Kevin had been able to write during those five years in the past. She canít imagine either of them going that long without honing their craft. She puts on a loose dress and goes into the kitchen to make dinner. She turns on the radio to realize that she has only been gone for a few hours, but Kevin has been gone for eight days. Nineteen seventy-six had gone on without them. Then, the news switches to a story about South Africa, where blacks are rioting and dying wholesale in battles with police over the policies of the white supremacist government. It is a metaphor for the past she has been living on the Weylin Plantation. Kevin finally comes out of the room and eats dinner where they talk about his confused state of mind. Then, as they are sitting there, quietly talking, Dana screams for him to get her bag. The now familiar sensations announcing Rufus needs her have returned. Fortunately, he puts the bag in her hand just in time, she pushes him away so he canít return there with her, and the darkness envelopes her once more.


When Dana awakens this time, she is sitting in some mud with rain pouring down on her. She stands up to look for Rufus and trips over him lying face down in a puddle. She grabs him before he can drown and pulls him out of the mud. She soon realizes that heís either drunk or sick. She begins dragging him toward the house, but eventually drops him in disgust and goes to the door on her own. Nigel answers the door, and she sends him to carry Rufus into the house. Once back inside, she comes face-to-face with Tom Weylin. He immediately realizes sheís back just because Rufus is in trouble. He asks her to put on something dry and then come back to library to talk with him. When Dana returns, Weylin comments that she looks as young as she ever did and asks about the bruises on her face. When she explains that they are the result of him kicking her in the face, he sits up in astonishment. Six years have passed since she last was seen in their lives. She tells him that for her, itís only been a few hours. She also thanks him for writing to Kevin to tell him she was back. He is incensed to have a slave thank him, and so Dana talks back to him. This makes him threaten her with another beating. However, his threats donít bother her, because she knows if he ever touches her again, sheíll kill him. She warns him aloud that if he ever beats her again, Rufus will be on his own. He becomes apoplectic and threatens her once more at the same time heís gasping for breath. She leaves him before he can see that she has lost her courage. She knows that he can do anything he wants to her, and thereís not much she can do to stop him.


When Dana returns to Rufus, heís shaking violently, and Nigel observes that he has the ague again. She canít remember exactly what disease that refers to, so she turns to Rufus who is trying to smile. Nigel remarks that every time she returns, itís like she never left. Dana says she had been hoping sheíd never return, but Nigel tells her that at least she had some freedom. Suddenly, something bites Dana on the ear. Itís a mosquito and thatís when she remembers what the ague is - malaria. She orders Nigel to find some mosquito netting to place over Rufus, but he has no idea why heíd need one. She then takes the opportunity to explain to Nigel that mosquitoes carry the malaria virus in their blood.

Dana then turns to Rufus and asks him why he just keeps trying to kill himself. He says that most of the time, living just isnít worth the trouble. Rufus insists that he does not have the ague, that what he has makes his eyes, his head, and his legs hurt unmercifully. She thinks that a doctor should be called, but when Tom Weylin comes in the room, he says that there will be no doctor. She will cure Rufus just as she has before, and if he dies, she will die. He promises that she wonít die easy.


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