Study Guide

Kindred Power

By Octavia Estelle Butler

Power

"You want her to read to you? […] Then you got something to say to me." (3.8.11)

Tom Weylin is willing to give Rufus what he wants for one simple little thing in return. He wants Rufus to apologize and to acknowledge Tom's total authority over him as his father. That's quite the tradeoff.

"Didn't I tell you I didn't want you reading!" (3.8.87)

Tom Weylin is pretty cheesed off when he catches Dana reading after he specifically told her not to. He's so mad in fact that he gives Dana a brutal whipping. Tom thinks he is the master of his house and he'll do whatever it takes to show everyone that he's in control.

I thought Weylin meant to kill me. I thought I would die on the ground there with a mouth full of dirt and blood and a white man cursing and lecturing as he beat me. (3.8.93)

Dana can't believe that she's going to die from being whipped by a white slave master. This is the essence of how awful power can be. It can destroy not only human life, but whatever deeper meaning this life is supposed to have. After all, what's the point of anything if a powerful person can just kill another person whenever they want?

I said we were dangerous to each other. That's more a reminder than a threat. (4.4.93)

Dana doesn't want to threaten Rufus. But there are times when he seems to forget that she has the power to let him die and she needs to remind him of this.

I had thought that eventually, he would just rape her again. (4.11.25)

Dana is disgusted by how easy it is for Rufus to exploit the power he holds over Alice. Alice is supposed to be a free woman, but Rufus arranges it so that she becomes his slave and he forces her to have sex with him. For the most part, power is a really ugly thing in this book.

Edwards backed off. Nigel was big and strong and not one to make idle threats. (4.16.6)

The overseer named Edwards likes to use his whip to show everyone how in charge he is. But, in some situations, a big slave like Nigel will stare him down until he retreats. Rather than contemplating his white privilege, Edwards goes off and picks on people who can't fight back.

I began to realize that I should have resisted, should have refused to let Fowler bring me out here where only other slaves could see what happened to me. (5.5.20)

Dana often curses herself for not showing more resistance to the white slaver-masters in this book. But the fact remains that she's scared enough of physical pain to avoid putting up much of a fight.

"Much better than you used to be. Someone must have taught you to behave." (5.7.15)

Margaret Weylin barely recognizes Dana after not seeing her for many years. This is because, as much as Dana would hate to admit it, she has become a very obedient slave because she's afraid of being punished by people in power.

Sent me to the field, had me beaten, made me spend nearly eight months sleeping on the floor of his mother's room, sold people… He's done plenty, but the worst of it was to other people. (6.2.40)

Dana admits that Rufus has done a lot of bad stuff. He has a lot of power over many human lives, and like most people with this power he tends to abuse it whenever he feels in the mood.

I pulled the knife free of him somehow, raised it, and brought it down again into his back. (6.4.140)

Dana finally makes good on the power she holds over Rufus when she murders him with a knife. She's been threatening to use her power over him this entire book, but Rufus has kept pushing the envelope by abusing his own power. In the end, Dana decides that there's nothing left to do but take Rufus out of the equation. He's had plenty of opportunities to be a better person, but he hasn't taken them.