Kindred Summary

Kindred written by Octavia Butler shows the story of a black lady named Dana who has an extraordinary power of time-traveling. The story, through the progressing events, shows not only the tasks that are needed to be done by Dana in order to assure her own existence in the present timeline, but also subtly portrays the harsh reality which the black community has to face repetitively for their existence in society. The writer carefully puts Dana in challenging situations which may have gone against her personal morals but she is left with no other choice but to do the particular tasks for her own safety. The writer also conveys the story through the time of slavery of the black by the colonizers and depicts how they had to succumb to these everyday tortures. The timeline she jumps to takes her to her ancestors who are the reasons for her existence and she has to make sure everything goes right.

The story starts off with Dana being answerable to her mangled arm condition. She is seen to be unable to answer how her arms were crushed beneath the insides of a wall. As hilariously impossible as it sounded, this is exactly what had happened and Dana is at loss for words on how to explain this to the doctors and the police. The scene then shifts to the oblivious Dana and Kevin Franklin, her white husband in the year 1976. The married couple had only just moved to South California where Dana finds herself sorting out their family belongings while Kevin gets more invested in his work. One day, Dana feels extremely dizzy and passes out. Upon awakening, she finds herself in Maryland in the year 1800 where she encounters a little white boy fighting for his life in a river. Dana hurries to save the kid and jumps into the river. She brings him out but by then he was already unconscious. After a lot of struggle with his body by the shore, Dana finally manages to save the little boy named Rufus. By the time Rufus gains proper consciousness, his father arrives and threatens Dana by pointing a gun at her. Terrified by the unwelcoming gesture from the father, Dana panics and then falls under another dizzy spell which is a transition of time which brings her back to her apartment in 1976. It had not been long after her return when after a few minutes, she finds herself traveling back in time again from her apartment to 1815. There she finds Rufus, except he is a few years older now.  She finds his room curtain set ablaze and there she panics again. She later finds out that the fire was set by none other than Rufus himself because he was not given a certain thing which he had wanted from his father. She immediately sets out to put out the fire so that no further harm is done to the house. She talks to Rufus and tries to reason with his thoughts, although it is very unlikely that a brat-minded boy like Rufus would understand reasons so easily. Dana then has to hurry and flee from the residence since she remembers how her encounter with Rufus’s father had gone. She runs to the house of Alice Greenwood who was a slave of Rufus’s household. Alice had been assaulted physically and sexually by Rufus many times. Alice resents not breaking away from Rufus’s assault and hence there was a build-up of hatred inside her for him. Dana finds many black slaves at the Greenwood residence and decides to set all of them free because she suspects them to belong to her lineage in some way. A group of white men finds the Greenwood residence and they beat up Alice’s mother and husband. When Dana comes out of hiding to help them, the white men also locate her and beat her up mercilessly. Dana, horrified with the turn of events, flees from the house and again travels back in time to her own apartment.

The next time Dana spontaneously time travels, she takes her husband Kevin along with her. They both reach Rufus’s house where they find Rufus badly injured. He seemed to have fallen off a tree and a black boy named Nigel is seen to approach him to give a helping hand. Nigel ran to get help and returned with Rufus’s father and with his slave Luke. Rufus is adamant not to let Dana leave this time and hence, they were all entering Weylin’s household once Rufus was treated. Kevin and Dana start to work in Weylin’s plantations and also help teach Rufus about manners and other education. However, Dana is caught red-handed when she is found teaching the little black boy Nigel and Weylin beats her up with a whip.

Again, Dana panics in the situation and in the next minute finds herself in her own apartment in 1976. But she had not come back with Kevin who was left behind in Maryland. After spending more than a week at home all alone, Dana finally travels back to Maryland only to find that her husband had left the area and that Rufus had raped Alice. She finds Isaac, Alice’s husband extremely angry and beating up Rufus badly. Dana tries to reason with him as soon as she realizes that Rufus is her ancestor and him dying could mean her never being born. She convinces Isaac to not murder Rufus and sends him and Alice away from the place while Dana takes Rufus home. She knew that Rufus was wrong and deserved to be punished lethally but her own existence mattered here as well and for that sake, she had decided to remain silent. Dana then finds herself staying in Maryland for two months in hopes that Kevin will send some news of himself. Eloping Isaac and Alice are caught very soon after they had run away and Alice is seen to be punished by beating and attacked by dogs. She is treated this way because she had helped Isaac escape. Rufus, in return, makes Alice his slave. Even though he is in love with her, he is mentally sick to have treated her the way he did. He then asks Dana to convince Alice to sleep with him once she is physically better. Meanwhile, Rufus who was supposed to send Dana’s mail to Kevin has failed to do so. Hence, Dana decides to run away and find Kevin herself. However, she is caught and then severely punished. Thankfully, Weylin writes to Kevin and Kevin comes to fetch Dana. The couple then decides to run away together at night but is once again caught by Rufus. He shoots at them which lead them off to another terror. They both travel back in time again where they are both safe.

Dana again travels back to Maryland where she finds Rufus in a pathetic drunk state. She takes care of Rufus, only for the sake of her existence later on in the timeline and makes him better, although he continues to be weak for a while. She also finds out that his father is having a heart attack and he dies very shortly. This death agitates Rufus and he demands to turn Dana into his slave and make her work in his fields. This was too much work until Dana collapses.  Rufus is seen to be more merciless to Alice than he is to Dana. Alice eventually grows jealous of Dana and the way she is treated and hence grows another form of hatred for her as well. She shortly gives birth to Rufus’s child who turns out to be Dana’s ancestor. The child’s name is Hagar. In the meantime, when Dana could’ve left, Rufus’s mother shows up and she was forced to take care of her.  Alice meanwhile notifies Dana that she is planning to run away but Dana fears she would not be able to do this since she had somehow accepted Rufus. However, Rufus was also obsessed with Dana in some ways since he would beat up and punish anyone who would flirt or even talk to her. He did not even reach out to Kevin as Dana had requested him to. Then once, because Rufus has unfairly beaten up a man for suspecting him of liking Dana, she intervenes in the matter. The intervention then turns into a quarrel and later a heated fight. She then slits her wrist in order to induce panic in herself so that she could travel back in time. When she does, the time travel is successful. However, this time, Rufus had followed her trails and attempted to rape her. Dana then finds a knife and stabs him twice. Mortified by her own actions, she comforts herself since now she did not have to worry about her existence since Hagar was already born. She returns due to her panic and finds her own arms cut off in the place where Rufus had held her.