In Kindred, how does the manipulation of time contribute to the overall effectiveness of the novel?
The use of flashback is very important to this novel. In order to get the plot moving and set up the basic conflict, Butler starts with the action of Dana's first time travel. However, in order for readers to understand the actions of the characters, she has to provide more information. Therefore, she uses flashback to show the development of Dana and Kevin's relationship. Readers are already interested and invested in the characters - now they are able to enjoy learning more about them.
The flashback and the time traveling also contributes to the themes of the novel. Humans tend to think in a linear manner: one thing happens, then another, etc. Therefore, we assume that if an event occurs, it is the result of what happened just before. However, this often isn't the case. For example, at the beginning, Dana saves a boy drowning in the river. The father threatens her with a gun. In a linear timeline, we would have to assume that he is threatening her because she saved his son. However, his violence comes from history of prejudice. Therefore, life doesn't just happen in a line; events, suspicions, behaviors, etc., all overlap and influence each other.