Discussion Topic

Alice's babies' deaths and the circumstances surrounding Alice's death in Kindred

Summary:

Alice's babies died due to the harsh realities of slavery, where infant mortality was high and medical care was inadequate. Alice herself died by suicide after being manipulated and abused by Rufus. Her death was a tragic consequence of her desperation and lack of control over her life as a slave.

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How did Alice's babies die in Kindred?

The first two children die in infancy because of improper medical treatment. The other children are used by Rufus like "a bit in her mouth" to show Alice he has complete control over her. The children were pawns in the game Rufus played with Alice, and his most powerful threat was to sell them to someone else. Alice resigned herself to give in to Rufus as long as he held this power. Alice hopes that her children will be free one day, and she names them Joseph and Hagar to express this hope.

When Rufus pretends that he's sold Alice's children, Alice loses all hope and has no reason to live any longer. She committs suicide, taking away the power that Rufus held over her. She never knew that Rufus had only sent the children away.

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What led to Alice's death in Kindred?

There are a number of events directly leading up to Alice's death, but one could say that her enslavement was the first step on the long, hard road to her tragic demise. It's bad enough to be a slave—it's worse still if you were born free, like Alice. For Alice had originally savored freedom before she ran off with a runaway slave called Isaac, after which she ended up as a slave herself. One can only imagine the deep trauma that Alice must have suffered as a result of this terrible experience.

Although on the surface she may appear to have adjusted to her new life—largely at the prompting of Dana—deep down, she can never accept her humiliating and degrading condition. If it were just her, however, then perhaps she would have been able to carry on. But when she gets it into her head that Rufus plans to sell her children to a white slave trader, that's just too much. Being a slave is one thing; having your children sold into slavery is another matter entirely. Unable to cope with what she believes—incorrectly, as it turns out—to be the imminent enslavement of her children, Alice tragically takes her own life.

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What led to Alice's death in Kindred?

Alice committed suicide when Rufus sent her children to Baltimore and told her he sold them.

Alice leads a difficult life.  She watched several children die young, and Rufus bought her and forced her into a wife relationship with him even though she was born free.  Alice only consents to be with Rufus when he says he will beat her into submission until he does.

Alice’s father is a slave, and even though she was born free like her mother she ends up living a slave’s life.  After Rufus sends her children away, Dana returns from the future and finds her hanging.

I stared at her not believing, not wanting to believe…I touched her and her flesh was cold and hard. (p. 248)

Alice definitely led a hard life, and she never managed to live a free life.  When Rufus took her children, she finally found a way to get control of her life back--by ending it.

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