Initially, because she underestimates her own courage, which has never been properly tested, Dana doubts that she has sufficient fortitude to survive in the nineteenth century. As Kindred unfolds, it becomes clear that she does, indeed, have abundant courage and stamina. Butler effectively utilizes a common technique in fiction whereby an individual becomes heroic by transcending his or her base humanity by drawing on hidden inner resources. Dana is tested in her second trip to the past when she is nearly raped by a white man who is part of a patrol—the forerunner to the Ku Klux Klan. Never before having experienced physical abuse, initially Dana is reluctant to act. She fails to disable him by gouging his eyes, thereby losing her only chance for escape. She learns from the experience, however, knowing that in the future she will be ready and willing to harm or kill if necessary. Ultimately, she frees herself from the past by killing Rufus with a concealed knife as he attempts to rape her.
While Dana is discovering her own strength of character, she learns of the various forms that courage assumes among the plantation slaves. Sarah, whose own children—with the exception of the mute Carrie—have all been sold, nevertheless protects and loves other children of the plantation. She refrains from attempting escape for the sake of Carrie, but she does so with dignity and with anger. Although marriages between slaves are not legally sanctioned, slaves have developed their own rituals of union. Nigel, a carpenter, uses his craft and his slightly privileged position with Rufus to work for hire in his spare time. Rufus receives a percentage of Nigel’s wages, but Nigel, with his share, builds a relatively substantial house for his wife and three...
(The entire section is 721 words.)
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