Monday, March 30, 2009

Kindred and the Spirit of Black Women

There are a couple of sayings that are prevalent in our society. “Black Americans are the backbone of our society” another is, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman”. Taking these sayings into consideration, it could be concluded that Black women have had a large part in the establishment of family life in this country.

Octavia Butler exemplified this in her novel, Kindred (1979), with just a minimal number of characters. By the introduction of the slave character named Sarah and Alice in addition to the main character of Dana, Butler showed the great strife that Black American women have went through to keep their family together.

Sarah, a slave on the Weylin plantation was a dominant figure in the novel, established as being the one who worked in the cookhouse on the plantation. Dana, a woman of the 1970's was introduced to Sarah on her third visit to the past when Rufus, Dana’s past relative and heir to the Weylin plantation, unconsciously called her back to the past in order to help him after he fell out of a tree. Despite the presence of Rufus’ mother, Margaret Weylin, Sarah made sure that the household chores were in order and did not take care of her master’s household out of love or kindness, but out of the love for her own family's well being.

After having two of her children sold away from the Weylin plantation, Sarah did whatever she could to try to keep her last child, Carrie, close to her and away from the auction block. Sarah tried to keep what was left of her family by being obedient to her owner, bringing the first example of how Butler shows how Black women went through strife to keep their family together.

The next example can be fund in the the character development of Alice who was introduced in the novel early on. It was Dana’s second visit to the past where she was introduced to her, then a free Black, while patrols were accosting Alice’s mother and her husband. As Alice grew, Rufus began to take a liking to her, and eventually bought her. Rufus had children with her, and even though these children were half white, Alice still regarded them as part of her.

There was a point in the story where Alice had the impression that Rufus had sold her children away, causing her to become so distraught that she took her own life before she found out the truth that her children were still close to her. This example shows the ramifications that are brought on to a person when their family is broken apart. Alice saw that her duties as a Black woman had been usurped with the “selling off” of her children, becoming so heart broken from this that she thought it best to end her life rather than to continue living.

The next example of Black woman cherishing their family structure that Bulter gave to her reader is brought to light with the character of Dana, a Black woman living in 1976. She is a modern woman and is married to a white man living in California, making her living as a writer. All of a sudden Dana started to be snatched back to the past and the reason of this displacement, Dana soon realized, was to ensure the survival of her heirs.

Dana was repeatedly compelled to save the life of Rufus, a white plantation owner, and also her relative, despite the repeated mental and physical abuse that was inflicted on her by him and his family. Bulter used Dana as the ultimate example of the way that Black women have been a major factor for keeping their family together. Dana endured the physical and mental abuse from the Weylin family when snatched back to slave days, not because wanted to, but because her entire family's survival was dependant on her strength.

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