Kindred: Through The Eyes Of A Slave

2479 words - 10 pages

American History, though relatively short compared to the history of the rest of the world, is a topic taught during all levels of education. From elementary school to college, educators inundate students with the facts and theories regarding the transformation of this country from the dense wilderness of the 1600s to the bustling cities of today. While there are many events and time periods in this nation’s history that have shaped its culture and society, one of the most thoroughly studied eras in American History is that of slavery in the antebellum south. Every third grader through college senior has taken at least one class in which the teacher or professor throws out facts and figures about the horrors of slavery, or shows pictures of the squalor of slave quarters with the intention of shocking and upsetting the inhabitants of the classroom. Most students, however, are never taught the whole story. They never learn about the lives behind the numbers or the events behind the pictures. Additionally, most of the stories students do learn about are purely negative and typically about the life of a male field hand. Hardly any lectures focus on the few positive aspects of slave life or the characteristics of life as a female slave. In her novel, Kindred, Octavia Butler aims to reveal what life was actually like for slaves, especially female slaves, in the years preceding the Civil War. Though this book is classified as science fiction, Butler’s depiction of slavery is surprisingly accurate, however not entirely complete. Through the course of the novel, Butler investigates every aspect of female slave life from birth through death including the work expected of a bondwoman, treatment of slaves by white owners, marriage and child birth, and the consequences of attempting to escape to freedom. Each chapter is a tale of a new ordeal, hardship, misfortune, heartbreak or harm which correctly reflects the reality of the difficult lives of women bound to slavery in the 1800s.
Kindred is written as a first person narrative from the point of view of Dana, an African American woman born around 1950, who is repeatedly seized from her quiet life as a writer in 1976 and thrown back in time to the early 1800s. Each time Dana blacks out, she soon finds herself transported not only to the past, but also 3000 miles from her home in California to the Wyelin Plantation in pre-Civil War Maryland. Dana soon deduces that the purpose of her trips is to ensure that her family lineage does not cease to exist by sparing the life of Rufus, the white plantation owner’s son, who would eventually become the father of her distant grandmother, Hagar. Additionally, during each of these journeys, Dana is forced to earn her keep on the plantation as a slave because of her African American heritage. Though this is an unacceptable shock to her, Dana is forced to acquiesce to the requests of her new master and understands that she has no other option if she wants somewhere...

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