The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The book is told from the first-person point of view of the heroine, Dana. Consequently, readers are exposed firsthand to Dana’s reactions to being transported to the antebellum South; to Dana’s evaluations of the nature of her white ancestor, Rufus; to her feelings about the initial naïveté of her husband concerning the oppression of black people and American Indians in the nineteenth century; and to her growing understanding of the perils and strengths of black people in general and slaves in particular.
Since the novel is told from Dana’s point of view, readers can empathize with her reactions both to her extraordinary experiences and to the brutality of the slavery era. One can readily identify with Dana’s feelings of powerlessness, since she must return to the antebellum South whenever Rufus’s life is endangered. Dana’s resultant inability to live normally in the present—her inability to drive a car, for example—becomes a vivid alteration in her life. Similarly, Dana’s first-person narration makes vivid for readers the cruelty and hardships black people faced in the antebellum South. Seeing slaves beaten, for example, makes Dana (and readers) aware that the beatings and abuse slaves suffered were much more shocking in reality than they seem through presentations on television and in films. Thus, Butler’s use of Dana as narrator enlivens the book’s subject matter.
Other characters are also brought vividly to life....
(The entire section is 434 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Edana (Dana) Franklin
Edana (Dana) Franklin, the protagonist and narrator. A newly published author, Dana is a twenty-six-year-old black woman who has been married to Kevin Franklin, also an author, for four years. Dana is a modern American woman who is suddenly transported to the antebellum South. Her knowledge of medical practices allows her to help Rufus and some of the slaves.
Kevin Franklin, Dana’s husband. Kevin, a white man, and Dana have a successful and mutually satisfying interracial marriage. When Kevin is transported to the past with Dana, he must pose as her master because no other relationship would be tolerated. This is as problematic for Kevin as it is for Dana.
Rufus Weylin, Dana’s great-great-great-grandfather, a white plantation owner in antebellum Maryland. Rufus, by means Dana never discovers, summons Dana from the present to aid him in the past whenever his life is endangered. Rufus and Dana’s relationship is based on mutual need. Rufus requires Dana’s assistance in order to stay alive, and Dana must safeguard Rufus’ life long enough for him to sire Dana’s great-great-grandmother. Their relationship is brutally unequal, however, as Rufus is a white male slaveowner and Dana is a young black woman whom he enslaves. He resists Dana’s efforts to rid him of his racism.
(The entire section is 562 words.)