The White Slave Narrative Kindred By Octavia E. Butler Essay

The White Slave Narrative Kindred By Octavia E. Butler Essay

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Literary critic Thelma Shinn Richard has said that “colonialism has inscribed its history on every African-American body and mind.” This is certainly evident in the science fiction slave narrative Kindred by Octavia E. Butler. One of Butler’s primary reasons for writing Kindred, perhaps subconsciously, may have been to try to receive closure about any white slave-owning ancestors she possibly had in her family tree. Creating the story of Dana Franklin, a modern black woman traveling through time to save her lineage from extinction, allows Butler to illustrate the ways in which some of the oppression that took place during the period of American slavery has carried over into later years, and the fact that many parallels can be drawn between the years 1815 and 1976. Butler originally delved into writing science fiction because the women in her family appeared to lead extremely difficult lives due to complex systems of inequality based on their race and gender, so the stories were her escape. In Kindred, the author builds up the courage to face these upsetting events and attempts to humanize the victims of slavery, rather than making them seem legendary, a trap into which many other stories of this subject matter have fallen. Readers are not only supposed to be in awe of Dana’s resilience, but also feel sympathetic toward her, and realize there is still so much work to do about misogyny and racism in this country.
Kindred is Octavia Butler’s first standalone novel, and she considered it to be the only one that is not science fiction, but rather a story of the dark fantasy genre. The protagonist, Edana “Dana” Franklin, is a black woman writer who has just moved into a new home with her white husband, Kevin Franklin, in 1976. Through a...

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... Kindred examines the way Butler changes the dynamics of time and space to illustrate ideas on black women, literacy, and assault, many of which stem from western European colonialism and American slavery. Butler frequently compares heterosexual marriage to slavery, with the traditional thoughts that a man would essentially be in control of his wife. Kevin is not purposefully oppressing Dana, but he benefits from a sexist and Eurocentric system where his life is valued much more than hers, and always has been. During her travels to the nineteenth century, Dana realizes that her high knowledge in reading and writing can help in small ways, most notably affording her the task of tutoring Rufus, which leaves her less time to do the more back-breaking work. However, it is also a burden, as many people on the Weylin plantation, both slave and slaveowner, resent her for it.

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