What motivates Dana to try to escape in "Kindred"?

Expert Answers
gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dana is motivated to escape by several desires or passions. Being accustomed to freedom, slavery chafes on her. She wants to be free. It is also hard for her to be around the suffering she sees. She misses Kevin and the ability to be with him openly, in a relationship of equals.

bookishlife | Student

The main character in Kindred, Dana Franklin, is an African-American woman writer in her twenties living in 1970s America. She’s repeatedly hurtled back in time to a slave plantation in 1815 Maryland.

Witnessing the first-hand the brutality of slavery, Dana learns the true meaning of survival. Her repeated attempts to escape go beyond her personal desire to return to what she comes to realize is, to say the least, a much easier existence. Because many events in the past have already happened and shaped the course of personal and cultural histories, may be beyond Dana’s ability to alter.

Thus, she needs to navigate a tricky balance. Seeking to do as little harm as possible, she is compelled — repeatedly — to rescue Rufus, a ruthless white slave owner who she learns is her ancestor. Thus, her own future existence depends on ensuring his survival.

Dana is also enormously conflicted about Rufus’s rape and concubinage of Alice, a proud black woman who, as it turns out, is also Dana’s ancestor, one that Dana also needs to ensure her own future. Alice’s attempts to escape have even more dire consequences than Dana’s.

The theme of escape, while ever-present, is overshadowed by the theme of survival — of the self, family, and community. In the present, Dana has lived a life of freedom, and naturally wants to return to it. Yet through her own attempts she comes to know how difficult escape can be for her black kindred of the past:

“Nothing in my education or knowledge of the future had helped me to escape. Yet in a few years an illiterate runaway named Harriet Tubman would make nineteen trips into this country and lead three hundred fugitives to freedom … Why was I still slave to a man who had repaid me for saving his life by nearly killing me? And why ... why was I so frightened now — frightened sick at the thought that sooner or later, I would have to run again?