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Kindred | The Fall, Parts 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1

Dana has a flashback and reminisces about how she met Kevin while she was working days in an auto-parts warehouse and writing in the evenings. Kevin struck up a conversation with her because he heard she was a writer like him. During their first lunch together, an obnoxious coworker, Buz, teased them about starting a romantic relationship. Taking the joke too far, Buz muttered, "Chocolate and vanilla porn." They ignored Buz's crude comment and had lunch together every day for a week. Kevin had just sold his first book and was leaving the company to write full-time. Because their jobs ended on the same day, Kevin surprised Dana with tickets to a play, and she agreed to go on a date with him. The date went well, and they spent their first night together.

Part 2

Back in the present, Kevin holds onto Dana when he sees her become disoriented on their bed, and they both travel into the past together this time. A 12-year-old Rufus has fallen from a tree and broken his leg. Dana and Kevin meet Nigel, a young boy around the same age as Rufus. Nigel is a slave owned by Rufus's father, Tom Weylin. Dana doesn't want Rufus to have to walk home on a broken leg, so she asks Nigel to run ahead and tell Rufus's father to call the doctor and return with a wagon. Rufus angers Kevin by reacting rudely when Kevin says he's married to Dana. To Rufus, it is illegal for blacks and whites to marry each other. While Dana and Kevin wait with Rufus, they try to prove to him they are from 1976, which is the future to Rufus, by naming the next president and showing him dated coins. Rufus has trouble understanding the impossible, but he finally says he believes them. Not knowing how long they'll be stuck in 1815, Kevin and Dana agree to play roles reflecting the time they are in so as not to cause more trouble than they can handle.

Part 3

At Rufus's urging, Tom Weylin invites Kevin and Dana, who he is told is Kevin's slave, back to his house on the plantation. Dana tells Tom Weylin she's from New York. When they arrive at the house, Weylin sends Dana to the outside cookhouse to eat with the other slaves, but Rufus begs for her to be allowed to sit with him in his room; he's afraid and in a lot of pain from his broken leg. Rufus's mother, Margaret Weylin, dislikes Dana immediately and sends her out of the room as soon as possible. In the hallway, Dana meets Carrie, a 15-year-old slave, who understands what she hears others say but does not speak herself. Carrie gestures in a way that lets Dana know her clothing—modern pants and a blouse—is causing everyone to act strangely and mistrustful. Dana blames her clothing on her "master," Kevin, letting them believe he's too cheap to buy her a dress.

In the cookhouse, Dana meets Sarah, the slave in charge of cooking. Dana eats some cornmeal mush and ruminates on the possible dangerous diseases she might contract in the time period. Nigel is in the cookhouse too, and he tells Dana she is "more like white folks than some white folks." To explain why she sounds educated, Dana tells them she is a free slave from New York and her mother is a teacher, which shocks everyone in the cookhouse. Luke, Nigel's father, tells Dana he can tell Tom Weylin doesn't like how she talks or that she's free because she'll be "putting freedom ideas" in the slaves' minds. Dana worries about getting into trouble every time she speaks, regretting her decision not to pretend to have a Southern accent.

Part 4

Spending time in the cookhouse, Dana discovers Weylin sold three of Sarah's children, allowing her to keep Carrie because she cannot speak. Dana notices the anger and sadness in Sarah and wonders how Weylin could trust her to cook his food.

Kevin and Dana find a grove where they can talk in private. Kevin tells Dana the fake story he told to Weylin. According to the story, Kevin is a writer from New York traveling through the South to research a book he's writing. He bought Dana because she can read and write. Some people he drank with robbed him, so he doesn't have any money. He and Dana are lovers, and he plans to sell her for a higher price in Louisiana, although she believes he will take her back to New York, where she will be recognized as a free person. Weylin has offered Kevin a position tutoring Rufus, who cannot go to school now that he has broken his leg. Dana thinks it's a good idea to stay on the plantation, where there is food and shelter, although she thinks they'll go home before they collect any money. She wonders what will happen to Kevin if they are separated. She senses it will damage him or change him irreparably.

Dana has already decided to tell Sarah that Kevin wants her to learn to cook for him. She plans to work like the other slaves while she is here so that no one resents her. She knows she needs to make friends in case she ever returns without Kevin's protection. Dana asks Kevin to help her find a way to spend time with Rufus so she can influence him to be more compassionate. She fears he will grow up to be just as cruel as his father.

Analysis

The title of this section refers to the literal fall of Rufus from a tree, the action that calls Dana to him. It also references the Fall—the biblical descent from grace after Adam and Eve are tempted by Satan and eat from the tree of knowledge. Butler uses this allusion to bring to light the evil of institutionalized slavery. Born into slave times as an owner, Rufus begins as a fallen character. By saving him physically, Dana serves as a vehicle for his bodily survival. However, she also wants to have a positive effect on him emotionally by making him more humane toward his slaves.

Readers see the power theme in this section through the relationship between Dana and Kevin. In a flashback, readers learn how Dana and Kevin met. Kevin, an older, white man, helps Dana by buying her lunch. He has sold a novel, and she is an aspiring writer. The older, more experienced, and wealthier Kevin has some power over Dana. When he time travels to the antebellum era with Dana, he begins to see the world through the eyes of a slave owner, believing that conditions aren't so harsh and could be worse. This troubles Dana, who experiences oppression firsthand and worries that the time period will corrupt Kevin and distort his view of equality.

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