Kindred Spirits Analysis
by Alice Walker

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Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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“Kindred Spirits” is strongly informed by the dictum of the women’s movement that the personal is political. Walker’s Rosa thinks about people in her life in a historical context, both in the sense of their (and her own) place in their family’s history and in the sense of them as players in a larger process of societal change. Although revolutions serve as the backdrop of the protagonist’s consciousness, her visions of her aunt, her grandfather, and her sister are each set against a backdrop of personal or social history from which a moral or political lesson can be drawn. Her aunt’s regal demeanor belies the Jim Crow practices of racial segregation and defamation that have framed most of her adult life; her sister’s marriage raises the issue of domestic violence; and her own marriage and its dissolution raises questions about interracial relations.

The story is strongly autobiographical. Rosa is in many ways an alter ego for Walker, with the fictional persona having experiences that parallel the author’s own marriage and divorce, her child, her travels, her political concerns, and her profession. Walker uses the device of the rhetorical question implicitly and explicitly to examine the larger theme that gives her story its title: kinship. This theme is wrought through the story line of the protagonist finding bits of her own identity in her grandfather (whom she loves despite his imperfections, particularly his attitudes about women) and in her aunt (whom she admires and identifies with physically, but whom she ultimately dislikes), and in her ruminations about the changing loyalties of her husband. These family matters are magnified into fundamental universal concepts of kinship. By examining sister and mate, grandfather and aunt, and recognizing the deeply complicated mix of motivation and standpoint for each individual, Walker asks by extension what elements unite and divide all people.

Though again flying in a plane at the conclusion of the story—flight being the metaphor for displacement with which the story begins and ends—the main character is “grounded” by her trip to Florida. In the midst of accepting an abstract life of loneliness lived much in the mind and through which other people are often objectified, she is, through her sister’s gesture of donning their grandfather’s hat and reaching for her hand, reassured of her commonality...

(The entire section is 567 words.)