In Kindred, Octavia Butler uses the science fiction plot device of time travel to explore how the history of the enslavement of blacks by whites in the United States is inseparable from the experiences of blacks and whites in the United States of the present. In Kindred, Butler uses time travel to give a modern audience the unique ability to have actual firsthand experience of slavery through the character of Dana, a contemporary of the reading audience. Through Dana’s experience, not only is the immediacy of history made apparent, but a more clear realization and understanding of the institution of slavery is reached.
I. Thesis: By sending a modern character, Dana, back in time, Butler is able to give this character—and through the character, the modern reader—as close as possible a firsthand experience of slavery. This firsthand experience enables Dana to understand through experience the complex forces of law and human behavior that enabled the institution to exist, and that caused people to willingly submit to slavery.
II. Evidence that Dana has previously educated herself about slavery—but that this book education does little to prepare her for the firsthand experience of being a slave.
III. Lack of human rights = blacks absolute vulnerability to physical and sexual assault.
a. Dana witnesses the beating of Alice’s father, and experiences assault by the white patrollers
b. Dana must teach the black slave children to read in secret=near impossibility of educating slaves
c. Tom Weylin whips Dana for stealing books
d. Example of Luke being sold as a consequence for not being obedient to Tom Weylin
e. Dana fails at trying to escape from the Weylins to find Kevin; she is whipped again
f. Isaac is tortured for beating a white man; Alice is tortured for helping a black slave to escape and is made a slave
g. Dana’s decision to help convince Alice to submit herself to Rufus in order to save her life=compromise that would be hard to understand for modern audience
IV. Comparison between Alice’s and Sarah’s philosophies towards slavery
a. Sarah: Acceptance of her lot as a slave
i. Forced into acceptance through fear for her personal safety
ii. Forced into...
(The entire section is 973 words.)