Literature Study GuidesKindredThe Fight Parts 1 4 Summary

Kindred | Study Guide

Octavia Butler

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Kindred | The Fight, Parts 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1

In a flashback, Dana narrates the events leading up to Kevin asking her to marry him. It happens about four months after they meet, after a fight they have over her refusal to type up Kevin's handwritten manuscripts. He kicks her out the third time she refuses, but she returns the next day, much to his surprise.

Dana isn't expecting Kevin to propose, partly because they've never talked about their families. They agree to visit family members separately to tell them the news of their engagement. Kevin's sister reacts badly, saying she will never let the couple, or Kevin, in her house. Dana's aunt and uncle, like parents to her since hers died young, do not welcome the marriage either. Dana's aunt likes the idea of "light" children, referring to their skin color, but prefers she marry a black man. Dana's uncle takes her decision more personally, as if she is rejecting him, and he disowns her from inheriting his apartment buildings to punish her.

Kevin and Dana decide to marry anyway, so they drive to Las Vegas and marry there. They return to Los Angeles, greeted only by one wedding gift from Dana's friend and a check for one of Dana's stories that will be published in a magazine.

Part 2

Her body in the bedroom, her head in the bathroom, Dana wakes up on the floor in her own time on June 11, 1976—only one day later than when she and Kevin traveled back in time. Dana, alone, tends to her back wounds, which are excruciatingly painful, as she grapples with what will happen to Kevin and how many years may pass for him before she is able to see him again.

Dana packs another bag with supplies in case she is called back into the past. Then she eats and sleeps. The next morning, memories of the past amid the present conveniences, palm trees, and a gardening neighbor disorient Dana. She calls her cousin and asks her to bring groceries, afraid to disappear while driving or falling down in the street.

Dana's cousin assumes Kevin caused the bruises and Dana's swollen face, and she urges Dana to go to the police about the abuse. Dana asks her to keep her condition a secret. Trying to prepare for what may be ahead, Dana keeps her bag with her as she reads books about slavery and Nazi brutality, but the research depresses her. She drops sleeping pills into her bag just in case the future is too grim.

Part 3

After eight days in Los Angeles, dizziness takes Dana to the past, where, in the woods, a black man is beating Rufus nearly to death. A woman wearing a torn dress watches the fight. Dana understands immediately what most likely happened—Rufus attempted to, or did, rape the woman, and the black man is beating him in retaliation. Dana accidentally distracts the man, allowing Rufus to throw one more punch before the man knocks him out.

Dana finds out the man is a slave named Isaac, and the woman, his wife, is a grown-up Alice. She remembers meeting Dana in the past. Alice tells Dana that Rufus is no longer a friend, and he has indeed raped her. Dana convinces Isaac not to kill Rufus—she needs him to find Kevin—but to run away instead. Before Alice leaves, she tells Dana that Kevin waited for her, but he eventually left to travel to the North. Rufus knows where he lives.

Part 4

As Dana wipes blood off Rufus's face, she finds out he loves Alice and that he raped her because he didn't want her to leave with Isaac. Dana is disappointed with the now 18- or 19-year-old Rufus for his lack of humanity. Rufus wants Isaac to be killed. Or he wants Alice, a free woman, to be caught with Isaac so Rufus will be able to buy her and enslave her (Alice will lose her free status if caught with a runaway slave). Dana is irked by the idea of Rufus getting what he wants as a result of his act of rape.

Carefully, because he can help her find Kevin, Dana convinces Rufus to say he is injured as a result of some drunk white men beating him. This will give Alice and Isaac a head start from the patrol who will surely go after them. After Rufus agrees to lie, Dana leaves him alone in the woods and goes to fetch help at the Weylin plantation.

Analysis

The title of this section evokes an archetype, or a recurring pattern, seen throughout literature. "The Fight" represents the battle between good and evil. The institution of slavery stands for evil, which characters such as Isaac and Alice battle. Dana also tries to right the wrongs she sees within her limited powers.

The symbol of home is conveyed in parts 1–4 of "The Fight." First, this symbol is seen through the flashbacks, as Kevin and Dana drift from her apartment to his, not settling until they marry. Even though their families do not approve of their marriage, Dana and Kevin eventually create a home together, a safe place where their love and relationship are protected. Second, Dana's uncle owns properties he originally willed to Dana. After she marries Kevin, however, he declares that these properties will no longer be hers after his death, solely because of her white husband. A black man can own property in 1976, a little more than a decade after the peak of the Civil Rights Movement and roughly a century after the abolition of slavery.

Two themes are presented here: power over versus power under, and kinship ties. Kevin's effort at asserting power over Dana is demonstrated in his forceful desire for her to type his writing. He positions her as his secretary, rather than as his creative equal. Dana shows her strength, especially as a female in a time period during which feminist ideals are just starting to be asserted, by refusing this task. She flips the power structure and emerges as a stronger character. Rufus imposes his power position on Alice by raping her, but because of his feelings for her, he agrees to lie about who beat him.

The theme of kinship ties is shown through families of both time periods. Both Dana and Kevin have fragile kinship ties in the present timeline, so they create their own bond of family, one that gets tested by separation from each other in the past timeline. Dana understands the necessity of helping Rufus keep their ancestral link intact, which will be established through the birth of his daughter, Hagar.

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