Octavia E. Butler

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Kindred: Prologue Summary & Analysis

The narrator (Dana) describes how she lost her left arm “coming home,” and says that she wants to see Kevin to reassure herself in the hospital. The police interrogate her about how she hurt her arm, but the narrator just repeats that it was an accident as she drifts in and out of a drug-induced haze.
The novel starts with no explanation of who the narrator is or where she has been before coming “home.” This uncertainty threads through the novel as Butler considers what “home” means to her characters.
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When the narrator finally wakes up fully, Kevin (her husband) is next to her bedside. He explains that they had to amputate her arm above the elbow, as the narrator tries to lift her stump. Kevin further says that he told the police a version of the truth about the accident that won’t land them both in a mental institution. His story is that he that he woke up and found that the narrator’s arm was stuck in a hole in the wall and crushed, even though neither Kevin nor the narrator, Dana, understand how that is possible.
The novel doesn’t ever really explain (even at the end) how Dana was injured, leaving the details of her lost arm in shadow. The amputation hints at the trauma that Dana will face throughout the novel. The fact that Kevin and Dana cannot be honest about these events with the police also suggests that the trauma Dana faces is too personal to ever be dissected by outsiders.
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