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Kindred | Study Guide

Octavia Butler

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Kindred | The Fight, Parts 5–8 | Summary

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Summary

Part 5

At the Weylin plantation, Carrie and Nigel recognize Dana. If Tom Weylin recognizes her, he doesn't mention it on the wagon ride back to where Rufus waits in the woods.

Nigel, now an adult, hoists Rufus onto the wagon, reminding Dana of Luke, Nigel's father. Rufus promises he will not tell anyone about Isaac beating him. Back at the house, Tom Weylin shoves a lamp in Dana's face and says, "You're the same one, all right." He demands to know who and what Dana is, but she cannot express it in words without sounding crazy, so she asks about Kevin instead, which seems to confirm for Tom Weylin the strange truth neither of them can express. In response to Dana bringing up Kevin, Weylin refers to him as "a damn fool." Then he offers Dana a place to stay as long as she agrees to work. Dana accepts his offer, thinking that Kevin may return looking for her.

Part 6

Dana nurses Rufus, giving him modern aspirin to break his fever. Margaret Weylin, after suffering a breakdown from losing her twin infants, has gone to stay with her sister in Baltimore City. Luke has been sold to a master in New Orleans. Dana considers how difficult escaping to the North would be from New Orleans as opposed to escaping from Maryland, and the idea of it frightens her enough to burn her history book when Rufus requests she do so.

Rufus gives Dana Kevin's letters from the North. Writing back to him brings her almost to tears. Rufus agrees to mail a letter from Dana to Kevin, but only if she burns her map of Maryland; he says he can't protect her if his daddy finds her map, as he will think she intends to use it to escape. Dana reluctantly burns the map in the fireplace in Rufus's bedroom.

Part 7

Rufus and Nigel take the wagon into the nearest town to mail Dana's letter to Kevin, but Rufus's true purpose is to buy Alice, who has been caught with Isaac. Dana is in Rufus's room when she hears him yelling for her to come downstairs and help Alice, who is barely alive; she's been beaten, whipped, and bitten by dogs. Rufus orders Dana to save her. He has spent all the money he has to buy Alice, and his father will not pay the doctor to administer medicine to slaves. Dana, not having antiseptic, wants to put brine on Alice's wounds, but Rufus, knowing the salty solution will hurt, will not allow it until he sees how Dana's back has healed from her previous whipping.

Part 8

After taking care of Alice, Dana goes up to the attic, where she sleeps. Dana cannot make sense of Alice's circumstances; it is unjust that Rufus has caused all of Alice's troubles and yet will end up getting exactly what he wants.

Sarah comes to the attic to ask about Alice. She tells Dana that the white men who went after Isaac cut off his ears because he fought back when they captured him. Thinking Dana and Rufus are lovers, Sarah asks what will happen to Dana now that Alice is here. Dana assures Sarah that this is not the nature of her relationship with Rufus and that she is content with her husband, Kevin. Sarah tells Dana to ask Nigel whether he really mailed the letter to Kevin; Rufus, she says, lies sometimes.

Analysis

Dana agrees to burn the map she tore from her book about slavery. She does this at Rufus's request because he says it is for her own safety. The map is a symbol of freedom because it provides a route to the North. Burning this book and map reminds Dana of the Nazi book burnings, and once again she links the antebellum era and institutionalized slavery to the tyranny and evil of the Nazis of the Third Reich.

Dana can be charmed by Rufus, but the charm does not discount his outbursts of anger and cruelty. His position in his family and society have led him to think he can take what he wants when he wants it. This is shown through his rape of Alice. As a white man, he sees nothing wrong with raping a black woman who refuses to have sex with him. Butler makes it known that women, whether white or black, are in a subordinate position to men. Readers see this through Margaret, who is mistreated by Tom Weylin; Sarah, whose three children are sold so Tom Weylin can buy new furniture for his wife; and Alice, who is raped, beaten, and ultimately forced into slavery and sexual servitude. Though Dana and Kevin face racial prejudice in 1976, the antebellum timeline reveals the roots of the patriarchal power dynamic in a time when only white men had the right to own property, vote, or hold political office.

The sale of Luke hits the characters hard on two levels. First, Dana is warned that she cannot do what she wants for fear of being sold to states further south. Were that to happen, she would risk losing Kevin forever. Second, during previous visits to the early 1800s, Sarah showed gumption by pointing out truths with an honest tongue, even if she spoke only in the cookhouse. In these parts of "The Fight," she has transformed into a more compliant and fearful woman. She cannot seem to imagine freedom or the means to achieve it any longer; she sees it as a risk not worth taking.

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