Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Butler’s portrayal of the two main characters, Dana and Rufus, conveys many of the novel’s complex themes. The depth of the characterizations is contingent upon the narrative technique: By making Dana the first-person narrator, Butler makes readers not only understand but also empathize with her psychological and physical dilemmas as she lives in the slavery era. Moreover, the empathy that Dana has for the slaves marks her narration, enhancing readers’ knowledge of the brutality they suffered.
One of Kindred’s central themes is the role of environment in shaping people’s attitudes and personalities. Moreover, Butler makes clear her belief that environment and training shape one’s self-image and, thus, one’s feelings toward one’s own and others’ power or powerlessness. Butler’s principal concern regarding these themes is the development and acceptance of racism. Similar to the main plot of Mark Twain’s The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), these themes are enacted in Rufus’s development, for Dana realizes that from childhood Rufus is being steadily trained to assume both his position as master and the related racist attitudes and behaviors. Kevin sums up this theme when he discusses Dana’s hopes to prevent Rufus from becoming more racist as he grows up:After all, his environment will be influencing him every day you’re gone. And from what I’ve heard, it’s common in this time for the master’s children...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
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