What are the similarities between Dana and Alice in "Kindred"?
Butler writes Dana and Alice almost as mirror images of each other, and in many ways, Dana's ancestor, Alice, is like her in many more ways than simple physical appearance. Both women are disliked by Liza and loved by Rufus, over whom both women have a certain amount of sway, but to whom both will usually submit in the end. Both women are freeborn but become enslaved over the course of their lives, with Dana becoming entangled with white men by her own choice and Alice because of circumstantial pressure.
However, the generations between them mean there are also many differences between the women. While Dana has received an education and been allowed a degree of control over her own existence, Alice is uneducated and has been treated as subhuman, which naturally has diminished her natural spirit and the fight within her. Her depression and broken will are indications of what Dana might have been if she had endured the suffering Alice has endured. We see this further as the harshness of the past begins to take its toll on Dana, rendering her ultimately less able or willing to fight.
Dana and Alice have a cosmic connection. (Time travel just has a way of enhancing bonds like that.) They may come from different time periods and points of view, but they're both African American women navigating their way through an unjust world—and I don't just mean in 1815. Even in Dana's home timeline of 1976, race relations had a long, long way to go.
If we focus on 1815, though, both Dana and Alice are strong-willed women who start out free and are later enslaved. Both are tormented by Rufus and hated by Liza. Dana and Alice are each driven by their pain, too. Alice, for example, resents Dana and her relationship with Rufus, and that motivates her to attack Dana's character and paint her as a disloyal white sympathizer. Dana uses her physical pain to make it through each day; the other slaves can hate on her all they want, but she'll even be Margaret's personal slave if it means avoiding another whipping. At the end of Kindred, Dana uses her emotional pain, as well. Her anguish over Alice's suicide drives her to kill Rufus. Then she can finally heal.
Both Dana and Alice are African American females who get married to white men; Dana to Kevin, and Alice to Rufus. Both women are slaves and suffer and endure great brutality at the hands of their masters at the Weylin plantation. Dana, during her journeys to the past, assumes the role of a slave and in one instance even pretends to be Kevin’s slave. On the other hand, even though Alice had been freed and had a slave husband, Rufus manages to enslave her once again and forces her to be his mistress.
Both their husbands are slave owners; Rufus, through his father, owns a large plantation with slaves in antebellum Maryland. Kevin, during one of Dana’s journeys back to the past, gets stuck for five years, during which time he owns slaves.
Rufus threatens to rape both of them; first, he threatens to rape Alice if she refuses to accept to yield to his advances. Then, he threatens to rape Dana, after Alice commits suicide, simply because of their physical resemblance.
Dana and Alice are alike in many ways. They are genetically linked, since Alice is Dana's ancestor. They look alike. They are both intelligent African-American women, and Rufus desires both of them. He gets angry at both of them because he can't have as full a control over them and their desires as he would want.