Love in Different Terms

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When we think of love, we think of something pure and beautiful. Although there are various stages of love, we assume that at the end of the day they all fall under the same category. We also believe that everyone we love is good because that’s why we care so deeply about them and you would be wrong to think that. Don’t believe me? Ask Dana, the main character of the science fiction novel, Kindred. In Kindred, Butler uses a 3-stage method to represent the love Dana has for Kevin, Rufus and her ancestors as one similar by name yet distinct by meaning to portray the idea that this love she feels is what makes her go back to Rufus and her ancestors at the beginning along with Kevin towards the end instead of letting go.

When we begin reading the book Kindred, the author is quick to let us know that Dana is in an interracial relationship. Due to this factor, we can only assume she does this to foreshadow the racism the couple might face during the novel, however, as we read the book from beginning to end it appears that wasn’t her purpose after all.

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Another thing we learn is that people are still judgmental about black and white people being together because of the oppression that existed before slavery ended. When thought of a woman of color with a white man, rather than it looking like love it seemed to be oppression according to an article called Inverting History in Octavia Butler’s Postmodern Slave Narrative written by Marc Steinberg, “both men are powerful white figures, and, although Dana’s marriage to Kevin appears to be secure, Butler suggests that, for black women, interracial heterosexual marriage too might be a form of oppression”.

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It almost seems as if it was Butler’s idea to add this twist of having a black and white couple to symbolize something else. Now, this isn’t something we weren’t aware of and Butler knows that but what is her purpose into reminding us of this? Similarly, to the relationship Dana has with Kevin, it seems as if Butler wants us to connect it with the “relationship” Rufus develops with Alice. Throughout the ending of the story, we can get an idea of what kind of love Dana and Kevin have for one another. They seem to be strongly in love with one another which is best understood during the last chapter when Dana goes back to Kevin’s dimension even if it cost her a limb.

Moving on to the even more twisted love Dana has for Rufus. At the beginning of the story, Dana sees little Rufus drowning so it isn’t a surprise that she feels affection towards an innocent boy. However, as he starts growing up, he unsurprisingly becomes a racist, disrespectful, manipulative rapist who Dana can’t help but care for and still backs up when he is in trouble even if he disrespects her. At this point, things seem so unpredictable not because we don’t know what Rufus will do next but because we know what Dana should do yet she chooses to do the opposite and stay in Rufus time period and why? That’s a question that can only be understood from the heart to heart. The relationship Dana has with Rufus is toxic and plain bad for her.

Unlike her relationship with Kevin, where she would’ve never allowed half the mess she did with Rufus, it seems as if Butler is once again trying to symbolize something. We won’t know for sure what Butler is symbolizing by putting Dana in a toxic situation with her ancestor but what we do know is that the ties Dana hold with Rufus, that blood connection, has a lot more meaning than what the bystanders, the audience and at one-point Kevin, think she should do. This analysis not only explains to us Dana’s attitude with each individual she loves but it shows us that Dana’s love for Rufus is not stronger than her love for Kevin but it definitely costs her a lot more which ties her more to Rufus. Based on this analogy, we can also infer that peoples pain is a bigger tie than connects multiple people more than the happiness you’ve experienced with them.

In comparison to the past two, the love Dana feels for her ancestors is not described specifically but rather concluded based on her actions. As we get halfway through the book, Dana meets Alice, who will eventually birth her grandmother. Even though she does not love Alice, she has affection for her because she knows Alice along with Rufus are the roots of her coming to life. This is a weird concept of love because it’s not really one that was developed over time and therefore not as strong as you would think. However, this emotion Dana feels is another strong reason why she goes back every time. Towards the ending, Alice has had two kids which are eventually set free. When Dana makes research to try and find any records of them, it seems as if she did, in fact, care about the kids.

Although it was most definitely personal interest she had that lead her to do research she still cared. This kind of love wasn’t too obvious in the book because it was more of a broad and unfinished emotion and to some, it wouldn’t be considered to be love due to the fact that she didn’t really know them. Even though Dana didn’t know her ancestors, it didn’t mean she couldn’t have affection towards them. Like Butler, when she did her research to find the perfect place and the perfect names to create the perfect story she did it in honor of her own ancestors. Because although she didn’t know them either, she couldn’t help but feel affection towards the ones who came before her; not to mention she also felt gratitude for their strengths to endure what they did. This endurement Butler portrays in her interviews seems to match with the endurement Dana portrays while she is with Rufus. Maybe, after all, that is the symbolism she was trying to show after all.

As we read Kindred, not only were we being taught the different meaning of history or love but we were also being taught the way Butler took her time in order to add symbolism that kept one wondering what else was she also included in this book that we didn’t notice. Although there were different kinds of affection and love Dana felt for Kevin, Rufus, and the rest of her ancestors, all, in general, seemed to work well and gave Dana’s character a more realistic form. Seeing Butler use a 3-stage method to represent what love means to her and her main character, Dana, gave the story an important touch that combined history and family and books and other topics used in this brilliant science fiction story that shows the factors that contributed to not letting go of the past.

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Love in Different Terms. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from

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