Kindred Additional Summary

Octavia Butler


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Dana and Kevin are moving into their new home in suburban Los Angeles in 1976 when Dana suddenly disappears for a few seconds. She experiences a few hours in an unidentified time and place, where she saves a small boy from drowning, only to have the boy’s father aim a gun at her. She feels disoriented and then finds herself back in her apartment, wet and muddy. Kevin has seen her vanish and reappear across the room, and yet he finds it hard to believe that she has traveled elsewhere.

A second incident allows Dana to better understand what is happening to her. Once again, she vanishes from her California home and finds herself rescuing the same boy, now a few years older and this time in danger from a fire. She learns that she is in Maryland and it is 1815, so the color of her skin marks her as a slave, since she has no free papers. Dana also realizes that the boy, Rufus, and his free black neighbor, Alice, are her ancestors, as she has read their names in her family bible. As night falls, Dana seeks refuge at Alice’s house, only to witness the brutal beating of a black slave man visiting his free black wife, Alice’s mother, without permission. The man’s white assailants are Patrollers, forebears of the Ku Klux Klan, and one of them attacks Dana, ultimately sending her back to twentieth century Los Angeles.

Dana and Kevin make preparations after the first two voyages, having determined that Rufus somehow calls Dana to him whenever his life is in danger and that Dana returns home when she feels grave danger to herself. The next time Dana feels herself losing consciousness, Kevin holds onto her and is thus transported with her to Maryland. The year is 1819, and Rufus has become a difficult twelve-year-old who enjoys Dana’s company but shows streaks of his emotionally distant father. Dana must pretend to be Kevin’s slave, and she is astonished by how easily both manage their roles. They remain for about two months, until Rufus’s father, Tom Weylin, catches Dana teaching two slave children to read and attacks her. Her life in danger, Dana returns to Los Angeles.

Dana finds herself alone, her white husband trapped in the past in his role as slave owner. Eight days later in 1976, and five years later in antebellum Maryland, Dana returns...

(The entire section is 931 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Kindred is a historical novel which explores slavery in the nineteenth century United States. The novel is classed as fantasy because of its use of time travel, which allows the protagonist to be transported by unspecific means between two centuries.

Dana, a twentieth century California writer who works at menial jobs assigned by a temporary employment agency, is married to Kevin, a white man. In her first time-travel experience Dana is unwittingly transported in time and space to a plantation in nineteenth century Maryland, arriving just in time to save the life of Rufus, the son of the plantation owner. She is sent back there five more times when Rufus’s life is endangered. She returns to her own time and place when her life in the nineteenth century is threatened. During Dana’s journeys into the past, Rufus grows from a young child to adulthood; however, elapsed time in Dana’s twentieth century life ranges only from a few seconds to eight days.

Dana learns, through genealogical research, that Rufus is her ancestor, and unless she assures his survival to father the child who will be known as Hagar, Dana herself will never be born. The plot is driven by Dana’s urgent need to protect the life of Rufus, a self-indulgent, accident-prone child and eventually an impulsively cruel adult. Dana also hopes to influence his character and to mitigate the evils of slavery. The carefully researched details of plantation life in the slaveholding South are graphically portrayed. As Dana notes, while being forced to watch the master whipping a slave, the sensory details of this brutality come alive in ways that cannot be felt...

(The entire section is 675 words.)


(Novels for Students)

The River
On her twenty-sixth birthday, Dana, the protagonist of Kindred, is overcome by nausea and finds herself on the...

(The entire section is 929 words.)