How does Kevin and Dana's relationship progress in the book Kindred, even though Dana keeps going back and forth in time?

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dana and Kevin have a complex relationship in Octavia Butler's Kindred. They are a married couple living in California in 1976; however, suddenly, Dana is drawn into the past, to a slave plantation in the antebellum era. Her experiences there change her and give her a new perspective on her life in the present, including her marriage.

Kevin is a supportive husband who listens to Dana's accounts and believes her, even though her stories sound far-fetched. Of course, he sees her physically disappear when she is brought repeatedly to the past. He helps her to strategize for each of her subsequent trips and listens to her traumatic narratives when she returns. For most of the time, though, Kevin is not physically with Dana in the past. He does eventually make a trip with her, but they are divided in their experiences because of the number of their visits.

Even more importantly, when in the past, they are treated vastly differently since Dana is a black woman and Kevin a white man. Dana is assumed to be a slave, while Kevin represents the top of the food chain in antebellum society. Even though they are married in 1976 (despite some dissatisfaction from their families), the power differential between them in the world of slavery is drastic. This means that the experiences they have and their feelings toward them will necessarily be different. Even though he is as supportive as he can be, Kevin can never truly understand Dana's experiences. Further, Dana's interactions with the plantation owner (and her ancestor) Rufus makes her think about her own marriage in new and disturbing ways. She is confronted with the sexual exploitation of black women by white men under the system of slavery. Even though her own relationship is not the same, because she is married to a white man in the present, she must confront this history and the way it impinges upon race and gender relations in the present.

Ultimately, Dana and Kevin's relationship survives the trauma of the novel, but both are forever changed by what they have seen and experienced, so naturally their relationship will have shifted, as well.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dana and Kevin have a close relationship even though she leaves because both have traveled back in time and they understand each other.

Dana met Kevin when she was working as a temp in an auto parts store.  He was about to quit his job because he had sold his first book.  They hit it off, because they both loved writing, and fell in love.

No one else can possibly appreciate what Dana and Kevin have been through.  Each time Dana travels back in time to save Rufus, they do not know what is going to happen next.  When Kevin goes with her, things get even more complicated.  She is a type of ghost from the future, with a modern black woman’s mindset.  Yet in the past she is a slave.

Both in the past and in the present, Kevin and Dana grow very close.  In the past, they are the only ones who understand how different this strange world is from their own.  In the future, they are the only ones who understand how experiencing the past has changed them.

We didn’t seem to have to grow back into each other.  The separations hadn’t been good for us, but they hadn’t hurt us much either.  It was easy for us to be together, knowing we shared experiences no one else would believe. (“The Rope”, 2, p. 243)

They can’t really tell anyone what has happened to them.  When they are gone, they are only gone a short time no matter how many days go by in the past.  Yet they have to explain Dana’s injuries, and people suspect Kevin.  Kevin also worries about Dana, because he knows she does not get to go back to the future unless her life is threatened.

The relationship between Kevin and Dana is the one sticking point Dana has.  Kevin supports her and understands her, and whether they go back in time together or she goes alone, he is the only one who can appreciate what she has been through.

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