The Antebellum South (Kindred) In most new environments people are subject to act according to their surroundings and instincts, based on what they think is “right”. In the novel, Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, the character Dana experiences time travels back to the antebellum South, where she encounters many dangerous situations. Although Dana is very clever and is able to make the best of her surroundings while helping others, it is challenging for her to do what is truly right by following her instincts, because of the immoral punishments of the antebellum south.
Like most normal human beings Dana has common sense and thorough the novel she retains this vital characteristic. In the beginning of the book when Dana goes back in time for the second time she encounters Rufus trying to burn down his house and when she stops him he calls her a “nigger. Dana gets offended by this and snaps at him, but he says that if she touches him he’ll tell his Father. “Wherever it was, the last thing I wanted to do was meet the boy’s father. The man could have me jailed for breaking into his house-or he could shoot me for breaking in. (Butler 25) This is an example of common sense displayed by Dan, she says that she doesn’t want to meet Rufus’s father because he might kill her because it seems as if she has broken into his house. The second time she portrays common sense is when Rufus tries to convince Dana to read to him. He grinned “Not with you here. Read some more” “I don’t think I’d better. It’s getting late. Your mother will be home soon”. “No she won’t. Read. ” I sighed. “Rufe, Your mother doesn’t like me. I think you know that. ”(Butler 88) Dana knows that if she reads to Rufus any longer that his mother would be home very soon, and she really doesn’t like Dana.
So instead of getting in trouble with Margret, Dana decides to stop reading to Rufus and let him rest. If Dana would have decided to read to him, Margret would have gotten home and found out and possibly “find” a reason to punish Dana. In another unfriendly encounter with Margret she interrogates her about where Dana had slept the night before. “I straightened to face her, rested my hand on the broom. How lovely it would have been to say, none of your business, bitch! Instead I spoke softly, respectfully. “In Mr. Franklin’s room, ma’am” I didn’t bother to lie because all the servants knew. (Butler 93) Dana has a conflict inside of her if she should respond back to Margret, in the same tone and manner as she asked her the question, but she does not fearing this could cause conflict between Margret and her, or otherwise death. Dana’s common sense allows her to be aware of her surrounding and use the more understanding option. Understanding your environment and therefore options is very important in making good decisions. For example, when Dana realizes an important fact of traveling back and forth in time she says “Then…. Rufus’s fear of death calls me to him, and my own fear of death sends me home. (Butler 50) In this example Dana realizes the great importance of time travel, she figures out that it is not random but is caused by Rufus, who in fear of death brings Dana to the past. When Kevin prepares to go to the library to help Dana, she is packing a bag of supplies. “I sat on the bed, fully dressed stuffing a comb, a brush, and a bar of soap into my canvas bag. I was afraid I might be trapped in Rufus’s time a longer period of time, if I went again. ”(Butler 58) This example shows that Dana is resourceful and from her travels to the past knows what she needs when she goes back.
When both Kevin and Dana go back in time Dana has already learned that to go back her life must be endangered. “Stay close to me. If I call come quick. ”(Butler 77) This example demonstrates Dana’s recognition of importance that Kevin remains close to her, in order for him to back to 1976 with her if she is endangered. As a clever woman, Dana learns to deal with situations by analyzing other people’s mistakes and applying them. Throughout the novel Dana finds new ways to cope with the unfair justice to all African Americans. “There’s nothing you can’t do that wouldn’t eventually get you whipped or killed” (Butler 101).
This is what Dana says after desperation of watching so many African-Americans mistreated. She realizes that no matter what you do if you are good and obey your master or bad and disobey your master you will still be punished, and punished severely. After Dana over hears a conversation between Lucas and Nigel she decides to follow Lucas’s advice:” “I didn’t bother moving to the quarter. I took some cookhouse advice that’d I once heard Luke give to Nigel. ‘Don’t Argue with white folks. ’ He said, “Don’t tell them ‘no. ’ don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes, sir. Then go ‘head and do what you want to do. Might have to take a whippin’ for it later on, but if you want it bad enough, the whippin’ wont mater much. ’” This is important advice that Dana learns because she does what she wants to and that is to sleep in Kevin’s room and for her it is worth getting whipped for. In the beginning of Dana’s time travels she says “I just don’t believe I can survive that place. Not with a knife, not even a gun. ”(Butler 48) What she’s saying is that even with high tech gadgets like a gun she could not survive the past for its brutal ways.
Because of the time period Dana came from the only aspect of her journey that she could not overcome, or accept was slavery. Although Dana is very clever and uses her surroundings to her advantage to help her and others succeed. Even though Dana’s cleverness allows her to make good decisions in all new environments, she cannot, despite her cleverness understand the immoral treatment of slaves in the antebellum south. Because of the time period Dana travels from she cannot understand slavery completely as only a bystander watching into a time of sorrow for African-Americans.