Study Guide

Kindred Family

By Octavia Estelle Butler

Family

"I burned the stable once […] I wanted Daddy to give me Nero—a horse I liked […] Daddy already has a lot of money. Anyway, I got mad and burned down the stable." (2.2.99)

Rufus has grown up thinking that he should get whatever he wants whenever he wants it. And it's easy to see how he would feel this way, with a doting mother and an army of slaves ready to do his bidding.

These people were my relatives, my ancestors. And this place could be my refuge. (2.3.42)

Dana's first instinct after learning she's gone back in time is to find her ancestors and stay at their cabin. The instinct shows just how deeply she connects with the concept of family, even if it's family she's never encountered before.

Tom Weylin had probably marked his son more than he knew with that whip. (2.4.33)

Tom Weylin thinks he's teaching his son discipline by whipping him. But in reality he's teaching him just the opposite. He's teaching Rufus that when he (Rufus) is old enough, he'll get to be the one holding the whip.

We could hurt each other too badly, kill each other too quickly in hatred. He was like a younger brother to me. (4.15.20)

Dana feels a family connection to Rufus, even though she hates everything he stands for. It would be nice if she could help raise him to be a good person, but Dana knows that she would be fighting the entire world to make this happen.

"It's good to have children […] Good to have sons. But it's so hard to see them be slaves." (5.5.2)

Nigel loves having a family and having children. But he also feels sad that his children are going to grow up to be slaves. It becomes a tough decision to have a family at all in this case because you feel like you're dooming any new person you bring into the world.

I remembered suddenly the way he used to talk to his mother. If he couldn't get what he wanted from her gently, he stopped being gentle. Why not? She always forgave him. (5.6.85)

Dana can see a connection between Rufus' expectations of the world and the way his mother treats him. Rufus has learned from his mom that the world will give him anything he wants, and he gets violent when he doesn't get it.

"When he does, and you read them to me, maybe I'll believe him. I'm tellin' you, he uses those children just the way you use a bit on a horse." (5.12.38)

Alice isn't convinced that Rufus will ever live up to his word and set his children free. That's because he uses the children as leverage to get Alice to do whatever he wants. The moment he frees them, he'll lose his power over her.

Alice had already told me she meant to ask for the boy's freedom. (5.11.41)

Alice wants more than anything for her children to be free from a life of slavery. But Rufus keeps putting her off because he likes holding power over her. How's that for a healthy father-mother relationship?

He had spent his life watching his father ignore, even sell the children he had had with black women. (5.11.26)

Rufus takes his cue from his father when it comes to how he treats black women. His father only ever used black women as cooks and sex slaves, and it looks like Rufus is going to go down the same path.

But all Alice knew was that her children were dead and she blamed Rufus. (5.5.10)

On several occasions, Rufus has called his family doctor to take care of the babies he's had with Alice. But the doctor's old-fashioned remedies never worked and the children died. Alice now lives with the thought that Rufus has murdered her children.