Conclusion – Part Six
By Kyra Brue
During Dana’s final visits, the changes in Rufus continue to evolve. He deals with malaria, the loss of his father, the return of his once erratic but now calm mother, and the death of his “true love,” Alice. The deaths of the two people he cares the most about take the biggest toll on him. When his father has a heart attack and Dana can’t save him, Rufus lashes out at her, repeating the words, “you let him die,” just so he can have someone to blame (Butler 209). Once Tom Weylin is gone, Rufus becomes the man of the house and the owner of the slaves who reside on the land, and instead of treating them better than his father did, he ends up treating them worse. He uses his power over the slaves as an attempt to control Dana, which leads to Rufus’ jealousy and immature fits of anger. He lets Dana get whipped just because she doesn’t do what he wants, leading to him selling off slaves, just to spite Dana and reinforce the control that he has over her. When Dana attempts to fight Rufus on the selling of her new friend and his family, he lashes out in the worst possible way, striking Dana across her face in an act that surprises and angers her. In a split-second Dana makes the decision that she can’t stand being near Rufus any longer, so she calmly walks into the cookhouse, runs warm water, and splits her wrists open, intentionally putting her life in danger so she can go home.
After a quick fifteen days, in which Dana feels empty and broken, while beginning to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), she returns to the Antebellum South for the final time. As soon as Dana comes to, a disheveled Rufus tackles her in relief and without a word leads her to the barn where Alice hangs, adorned in her nicest clothes as if dressed for the occasion. This is the moment where the novel drastically shifts. Dana stands by and watches as Rufus deals with the loss of Alice, which was caused by his own childish behavior. Rufus told Alice that he had sold their children, when in reality, he sent them to live with his aunt, causing Alice to break down and take her own life. His attempt to establish some type of power over Alice, like with Dana, ends in him losing one of the only people he truly loved. His immature and idiotic actions have again ended in him losing something, which furthers his depressive state. His actions are now negatively affecting him too. Throughout this stay, Rufus becomes even more dependent on Dana. Now that Alice is gone, we see that the sexual attraction he once had towards Alice transitions to Dana in an inappropriate and aggressive way. While speaking with Rufus and noticing his change in attitude towards her, Dana thinks to herself, “No Alice to take the pressure off anymore” (Butler 256). She knows that he has these urges and becomes determined to get home before she is forced to make a tough but necessary decision. However, Rufus has other plans. “’You were one woman,’ he said. ‘You and her. One woman. Two halves of a whole,’” states Rufus, as he attempts to make sexual advances towards Dana (257). In the end, Dana is forced to make the difficult decision that she feared and, in an act to escape and finally save herself from Rufus, Dana takes her knife and stabs him until his body goes limp. She pushes Rufus off of her, his arm still latched onto her, and then she is transported back to 1976. However, the arm that was still tangled with Rufus’ becomes the wall of her living room, symbolizing Rufus’ obsessive and brutal hold on her. Dana’s arm becomes warped and has to be amputated, and this everlasting injury is the constant reminder of her time in the Antebellum South. Even once everything is said and done, Dana has to live without an arm and with the reminder that Rufus was once, and always will be, a part of her life. Instead of Rufus’ death freeing her, Dana is forever changed. She is harder, tougher, and deformed all because of him.
Overall, Rufus’ forced presence in Dana’s life causes her to become a different person. Before these events, Dana was content with her simple life as a writer and a wife, but after Rufus, she became a different version of herself that has to deal with the traumas she endured while being transported into the past. Their relationship shows just how much white men impacted the lives of black women in the nineteenth century. As previously stated, men have been in control of many major events for a long time, and Rufus’ control of Dana’s trips to the past is no different. His control is the cause of the most detrimental outcome throughout this whole experience. Dana is a strong African American woman before, during, and after Rufus, but even these events that occur can’t stop her from breaking, ultimately forcing her to kill him in order to save herself. In the epilogue, Dana goes to find some answers about the past that she begrudgingly called home, but even the few answers she does find, don’t erase her memories or help with the PTSD that she will most likely live with for the rest of her life.
As demonstrated in Kindred, African American women play an important part in science fiction, as creators and characters. They may be overshadowed or negatively impacted by white men in some cases, but they are out there. Dana, even after going through such a harrowing experience, is able to break through Rufus’ obsessive hold on her and escape. As for Butler, she was able to break the mold and be a successful author in a white male dominated genre, allowing other women and people of color to also find success. Because of the lack of representation in my childhood, I was more determined, as an adult, to find African American women embodied in all sectors and genres of entertainment, especially science fiction. Even before researching this topic, I had already begun to see the growth in the representation of black women all around me. From childhood to now, I have witnessed Zendaya perform as leading lady in several of my favorite TV shows and movies, Danai Gurira kick butt in her role as Okoye in the successful Marvel franchise films Black Panther and Avengers 3 & 4, and so many more black women grow and make their mark in this white dominated world. I am pleased to see that African American women haven’t just been making waves in R&B, comedy, and drama, but their presence has also become more common in science fiction today, as seen in the success of Black Panther. Although equal representation in science fiction is still developing, African American women in all genres are making strides that my younger self would have been much more excited to have seen back then, but that my older self is just as happy to witness now.