How would you describe the relationship between Rufus and Dana in Kindred?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The relationship between Rufus and Dana is a highly complicated one, and at one stage the author draws a deliberate parallel between the way that Dana feels about him to the way that his slaves feel about him. Note how this is established in the following quote, taken from Part 11 of "The Storm":

They seemed to like [Rufus], hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time... I had thought my feelings were complicated because he and I had such a strange relationship. But then, slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships.

Dana is talking of an incident when Rufus handed out scraps of food and alcohol to his slaves round a campfire. She is struck by the way that the slaves overtly are grateful to him for these small gifts, but at the same time how they then insult him behind his back. The slaves, having lived as slaves for all their lives, find themselves naturally grateful to their master for the gifts that he gives them, even though at the same time they continue to hate him for keeping them as slaves. Dana finds similar contradictory feelings within her own relationship to Rufus, and is shocked to realise that she is not as different from the slaves as she had thought she was. The final sentence of the quote signals to the reader the profound wrongness of slavery: slavery fosters "strange relationships" because of how unnaturally wrong it is. Dana's relationship with Rufus is therefore characterised by both loathing and hatred, but also occasional moments of affection and gratitude.

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