Social Issues in the book Kindred

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When were in position of power we usually lose our understanding of distinguishing the difference between being wrong and doing something because we “have to” we often forget there’s many ways to accomplish a certain goal. In the book Kindred by Octavia Butler, an African woman named Dana living in the 1976 time period travels back to 1819 a time where slavery is legal. Dana comes across her ancestors Tom & Rufus Weylin who are white men, and because of this she faces many complications with them being that she is a slave in their time period.

Their power drastically effect everyone around them negatively. Butler shows the theme of power being abused, it’s important that we know when were in the position to affect others life, but we don’t abuse it.

To begin with, Tom Weylin is introduced at the slave owner of the Weylin’s plantation. Tom is a very aggressive person he believes that because he’s in power every decision he makes has to show that.

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“Didn’t I tell you I didn’t want you reading,” (Chapter3.Section8) Tom is furious when he catches Dana reading because he told her she couldn’t. This act of rebellion made Dana end up getting whipped, not just because she didn’t obey him, but because Tom has power over the slaves, he wants to show everyone that he’s in control no matter to what extent. Butler gives us this quote to show readers how being in power can make you somewhat evil because others sometime may not want to follow your rules.

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After being whipped Dana says “I thought Weylin meant to kill me. I thought I would die on the ground there with a mouth full of dirt and blood and a white man cursing and lecturing as he beat me” (Chapter3.Section8). The punishments are not only affecting the rebel but also the person that’s carrying out that punishment. It makes the punisher second guess their self-trying to figure out if they’re really good or bad. If what they’re doing is right. Then it also makes you second guess yourself, makes you think is this all you ever have to be? Is this going to always happen when you break the rules, or could it get worse? Makes you think less of yourself thinking that you can’t break from your master because he will always be in power. Even after he dies, his generations that comes to rule will reflect the way that they’ve learned from their father to rule so the cycle of abusing power never really stops.

When Dana travels back in time she acts like a slave. “I’m someone who may have just saved your son’s life” Dana said to Weylin, throughout the book we see how Dana saves Rufus’s life in many different ways she tries to secure a position of safety by using her role of being Rufus’s protector to gain a position of power from Rufus. After a while Dana begins to demand respect from Rufus, but Rufus acknowledges her as a black slave with no rights, “you think you own me because you saved my life!” Rufus continually threatens the balance that Dana so desperately seeks from him. Overtime Rufus learns that the best way to control Dana is to threaten others. He does this particularly with Alice. Rufus demands that Dana convince Alice to willingly submit to his sexual advances.

Dana starts to make observations about Rufus. “the boy already knew more about revenge than I did. What kind of man was he going to grow up into?” (Chapter2.Section2). As Rufus is growing up, he sees how his father punishes the slaves when they don’t obey orders. As he’s surrounded by these dreadful happenings it starts to shape him as a person, he starts feed into what he’s surrounded by. Rufus wanted to kill himself because his father had beat him, he sets the house on fire with himself, and other people in it. It’s ironic that in a time period where whippings are “natural” when Rufus receives one that isn’t as nearly bad as the one that the slaves receive, he attempts to commit suicide. This is important because it shows us the reverse of power effect, it makes us wonder what if the power that we have, what if someone that we used it to abuse, what if the power was then in their hands?

Next, While growing up on the plantation as the master son, Rufus was in close contact to the other children. As he got older, he became affectionate for Alice who’s a “slave.” When Rufus becomes a slave owner, he believes that he has the right to control the lives of others and have all his demands carried out no matter how horrific or in humane they are. Dana is shocked when she finds out that Rufus tried to rape Alice. Dana ask “why would you do such a thing? She used to be your friend” (Chapter2.Section4). This quote proves that power changes us, Rufus cares about fulfilling his self-interest, he abuses his power by doing so he wanted to have sex with Alice, so he tried to against her will. Dana also speaks about how disgusted she is about Rufus actions, “I had thought that eventually, he would just rape her again” (Section4.Part11). Alice is supposed to be a free woman, but because Rufus desires her, he’s he ignore that. Alice becomes Rufus personal slave and he forces her to have sex with him, not only does this show how badly power can affect someone but also that power is an ugly thing and brings out an ugly side in us.

Rufus was so fixed on proving that he’s the one in controlling Alice that he does something that drives her over the edge. Rufus says “to punish her, scare her. To make her see what could happen if she didn’t … if she tried to leave me” but what he did just drove Alice to commit suicide Rufus hid her children but instead told her that we sold them, Alice felt as if life was unbearable she had already children by her rapist, but to live with that and the fact that he sold them was just to much for Alice. The children were the only thing that kept her going.

Butler doesn’t dignify this choice, it’s presented as a digestible reaction in regard to Alice feelings that all of her power to make her own decisions, and live a comfortable life was taken away.

Butler Introduces us to Sarah; a strong, selflessness, loving mother, she cooks for the Weylins. Sarah had many children that Tom Weylin sold. “First my man died-a tree he was cutting fell on him. Then Marse Tom took my children, all but Carrie” (Chapter3.Section4) she said, even though he sold her children Sarah continued to cook for him and his family, she continued to be strong for the only child she had left by her side. This shows how much a person can be oppressed by someone who has authority over them how they can still be strong, strong enough not to retaliate against them because the punishment that they’ll receive isn’t worth it at all. Butler shows us a new side

“The expression in her eyes had gone from sadness—she seemed almost ready to cry—to anger. Quiet, almost frightening anger. Her husband dead, three children sold, the fourth defective, and her having to thank God for the defect. She had reason for more than anger. How amazing that Weylin had sold her children and still kept her to cook his meals. How amazing that he was still alive” (Chapter3.Section4)

In conclusion, Butler reveals the social issue of people in authority. She shows many examples on how Tom & Rufus Weylin abuse their power. She also makes it clear that when we have power we should always think about the outcome of our decisions, because it not only affect them, but the people who are carrying out those orders.

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Social Issues in the book Kindred. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from

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