Octavia E. Butler

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Themes and Colors
Family and Home Theme Icon
Interracial Relationships Theme Icon
History and Trauma Theme Icon
Freedom and Privilege Theme Icon
Choice and Power Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Kindred, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Family and Home

Starting with the book’s very title, family and kinship are some of the most important considerations to the characters and plot of Kindred. The family bond between Rufus and Dana is the driving force of the story, as Dana travels back in time to save Rufus each time he is trouble, because she has to keep Rufus alive so that he can bear the child that will continue Dana’s family line. Yet family is…

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Interracial Relationships

Butler depicts the complicated dynamics and power struggles of many different types of interracial relationships, in the romantic relationship between Dana and Kevin, the master-slave relationship between Rufus and Alice, and the complex familial relationship between Dana and Rufus. In Dana and Kevin’s marriage, Butler shows the possibility of an interracial relationship that is built on true connection based on shared personality and experiences, as the couple each struggle to become writers, rather…

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History and Trauma

Much of the novel focuses on the many ways that American slaves faced incredible emotional and physical pain throughout the history of the American slave states. Butler, led by a desire to remind Civil Rights activists not to blame slaves for accepting their abuse by offering a reminder of the extent of the trauma that slaves faced, bears visceral witness to the terrible things that slaves daily survived. Rather than using the enslaved characters as…

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Freedom and Privilege

As Dana moves between time periods, she (and her husband Kevin) also move between various states of freedom and privilege. Dana, a modern African American woman, has to deal with the total loss of her freedom in order to keep herself alive on the estate of her white ancestor, Rufus Weylin, in the oppressive Antebellum South. In contrast, Kevin must learn to resist the increased privilege he gains as a white male in…

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Choice and Power

As Butler delves into the everyday lives of Antebellum slaves in a neo-slave narrative, she also points out the places where slaves take back agency and power in their lives despite the oppressive system that attempts to rob them of their choice and humanity. At points, it seems as though slaves are choosing to stay oppressed. The Weylins’ cook, Sarah, flatly refuses to think of running away to the North, a choice that Dana

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