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Kindred | The Rope, Parts 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1

Dana's wrists are wrapped when she wakes up in her bed in the present time. Kevin's doctor and friend, Lou George, had rushed over the previous night when Dana appeared in the apartment with her wrists slit. Lou had recommended to Kevin that Dana seek psychiatric treatment for her suicidal tendencies. Dana and Kevin share a warm laugh over this take on their situation. Their conversation turns serious after Dana tells Kevin that Hagar has been born. Kevin alludes to wanting Dana to kill Rufus and end the time travel. She asks Kevin how he can expect her to kill someone when he cannot even speak of murder directly.

Part 2

Kevin and Dana spend 15 days together in the present. Kevin attempts to drive a car but nearly injurs some people, so he gives up for a while. Julie, Dana's cousin, stops by and tells Dana that she and Kevin look haggard. Generally, Kevin and Dana's relationship is thriving, but they have difficulty being social. Kevin brings up Rufus, trying to discern if he's raped Dana and if she plans to kill him. They misunderstand each other, but Kevin is reassured when Dana explains that Rufus attempting to rape her is the one thing that would cause Dana to kill him. Dana thinks about what will happen if she does kill Rufus. Not knowing exactly what facilitates her travels through time, Dana wonders if his death could strand her indefinitely in the past.

Part 3

Alice has hanged herself in the barn, and Rufus's thoughts of suicide after discovering her body pull Dana back to the Weylin plantation. After cutting down Alice's body, Dana finds Sarah in the cookhouse. Sarah tells Dana that Rufus sold Alice's children, Hagar and Joe, and the heartbreak of losing them drove her to suicide. Dana confronts Rufus in the library, and he shocks her with his version of the truth. To punish Alice for running away and show her what would happen if she left again, he made it look as if he sold the children. They are actually at his mother's sister's house in Baltimore. Rufus blames Dana's departure for Alice's escape, suggesting Alice may have stayed if Dana hadn't left. Dana argues with Rufus, telling him to free his children, and she blames him for Alice's death. She says he owes it to Alice to free the children.

Part 4

A freedman minister performs Alice's funeral service, and everyone on the plantation attends. The next day, Rufus takes Dana into town with him; they visit the courthouse, and Dana witnesses Rufus signing the papers that legally free his children, Dana's ancestors.

Rufus, distraught over Alice's death, is equally distraught over knowing now that Dana can leave at any time by attempting suicide. After Rufus retrieves his children from Baltimore, he lets Dana resume teaching them and Nigel's children. Time passes. Rufus bosses Dana around less, but he keeps a close watch on her. Dana tries to convince him to free his slaves, but Rufus resists, finally admitting he fears she will kill him if he drafts a will allowing all of the slaves to go free upon his death. Rufus also admits to having recurring nightmares—starting in his childhood and returning after Alice's death—of Dana not saving him and letting him die.

Rufus is depressed over Alice's death, and he speaks of life as meaningless now. One day he broaches the idea of Dana staying permanently and helping him raise his children by Alice. Dana and Alice's resemblance is unbearable for him; he sees them as "one woman. Two halves of one whole."

With Rufus thinking this way, Dana knows she must leave and go back to her own time; it is too dangerous for her here. She gets away from him as soon as she can and rushes upstairs to the attic to slit her wrists and go home.

Rufus follows Dana. He makes his intentions clear: he means to rape Dana and keep her in his time, wanting her to replace Alice as his lover. Dana's hand is still on the knife she was about to use on herself, and she plunges it into Rufus, who screams like an animal. Dana stabs him again. Nigel appears as Dana feels something crushing her arm. She is transported to her own time, but her arm where Rufus was holding it is trapped in her living room wall. She yanks it out from the wall, and the pain makes her scream in agony.

Analysis

"The Rope" refers to Alice's suicide. She hangs herself with a rope, outwardly displaying her disgust at the alleged sale of her children. This self-inflicted wound serves as an escape from a world in which blacks are treated as chattel and their children sold like livestock. The rope propels the novel to its final action.

In Rufus's mind, the union of Alice and Dana as "one woman" is now complete. Though he commits the just act of freeing his children, he cannot convince himself to free the other slaves or to release Dana. Through the character of Rufus, readers see how slavery degrades the owner as well as the enslaved, creating weak men with weak relationships created through misplaced power. Though Dana thinks about how easy it would be to sleep with Rufus to make her situation less threatening, she instead acts heroically, standing up to the violence committed against black people, especially black women, again and again. When she kills Rufus, she frees herself from the time-traveling path and frees her slave family from Rufus.

Dana's arm is cut off where Rufus held it. It appears to be trapped between the time periods, a remnant connecting the timelines in an in-between space that Butler does not define. Permanently marked, Dana possesses a constant reminder of the severed slave community on the plantation she left behind. In contrast to the black community, the Weylins' ties to one another are dysfunctional and fragile, lacking in empathy, genuine love, and basic human respect.

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