Octavia E. Butler
Meaning of the Title
It refers to the various familial connections in the novel including: Dana is the descendent of Rufus and Alice. Dana is beginning a new family with Kevin. Dana comes to identify with the slaves as family members. Noth Dana and Kevin have a difficult time understanding in which home they belong, the new one in 1976 or the plantation in 1819.
In 1976, it is the town of Altadena, California, in Dana and Kevin's new home; in 1819 through about 1840, it is the antebellum South on the Weylin Plantation.
Rufus Weylin and the system of slavery
The mood is filled with darkness and bitterness as the system of slavery beats down everyone who comes in contact with it. However, it ends hopefully for Kevin and Dana who, now free from Rufus' obsessive need for her, can live their lives knowing all they experienced has made them stronger.
Point of View
First person from the narrative viewpoint of Dana Franklin
This story is written in the past tense since the author tells it in flashback or after the events have already occurred.
The rising action begins on Dana's twenty-sixth birthday, June 9, 1976, as she and Kevin are unpacking boxes for their new house. It ends with the climax of Rufus' murder at Dana's hands.
The author tells us the story of Dana Franklin's time travels to the plantation where her ancestors lived under the system of slavery. Several times, she is called to protect or save Rufus by some power neither understands. She comes to realize that if she doesn't keep Rufus alive, he will not become the father of Hagar, the woman from whom Dana is descended. So, while learning the horrors of slavery, she keeps alive the man who perpetuates them in order to ensure her own birth. Eventually, she must kill him to free herself from his obsessive hold.
Dana kills Rufus before he can rape her and hold her in the past forever.
After healing from the loss of her arm, Dana and Kevin fly to Baltimore to try to find records to prove the existence of the people they met in the past. Eventually, they reinforce to each other that they are sane and safe from Rufus forever.
The Horrors of Slavery, Obsessive Love, and the Human Need for Freedom