Study Guide

Kindred Violence

By Octavia Estelle Butler


I closed my eyes again remembering the way I had been hurt—remembering the pain. (Prologue.20)

Dana gets to the point where her life is so messed up that the only thing keeping her grounded in reality is the pain she feels after being whipped. It's super-unpleasant, but she finds she needs to focus on this pain as much as possible to keep from losing her grip on reality.

That was when I realized your arm wasn't just stuck, but that, somehow, it had been crushed right into the wall. (Prologue.31)

The violence we find in this book doesn't only come from people. People's physical circumstances can also lead to a lot of violence. In this scene, Dana transports through time to find that her arm has reappeared inside one of the walls of her house, crushing the arm completely.

"I asked her where you went […] and she got mad and said she didn't know. I asked her again later, and she hit me. And she never hits me." (2.2.51)

Rufus' mother has never hit him before, but there's something about watching Dana disappear that makes her so uncomfortable she has no other way of expressing herself. This detail just goes to show that people tend to react violently whenever they're confronted with something they don't understand.

"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 learned from a young age that whenever he doesn't get something he wants, he can let off some steam by acting out in violent ways. This kind of behavior is exactly what makes him such a horrible person to deal with when he grows into an adult and has power over others.

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

Dana knows that Tom Weylin has used his whip on his son before. But the man probably doesn't realize how much long-term emotional damage he's doing to his son. In the end, all he's doing is creating a person who will one day grow up to be a violent man like himself.

"I never thought you'd be fool enough to let a man beat you." (4.2.41)

Dana's cousin thinks that Kevin has been beating Dana, and she's disappointed when she hears Dana deny it. She had always hoped Dana would be a strong enough person to get rid of an abusive husband.

"Rufe, did you manage to rape that girl?" (4.4.35).

Dana has tried really hard to help Rufus grow up into a good person. But she feels like a failure when she realizes Rufus has been going around trying to rape a black woman named Alice. Despite Dana's best efforts, Rufus thinks that black people (and especially women) are just things that he can use whatever way he wants.

"They cut him! They cut off his ears!" (4.10.77)

When Alice finally recovers her memory, she realizes that a bunch of white people caught her husband Isaac and cut off his ears as punishment for running away from the Weylin plantation. This kind of mutilation might make us squirm as readers, but it's important to acknowledge just how brutal the practice of American slavery was.

I didn't want to depend on someone else's chance violence again—violence that, if it came, could be more effective than I wanted. (5.13.6)

Dana is sick and tired of being at the mercy of any white person who feels like hitting her. She eventually decides that she needs to find some way of protecting herself, and that's when she starts carrying a knife around with her.

"And now that the boy is dead, we have some chance of staying [sane]." (Epilogue.28)

By the end of this book, we've seen a lot of violence. But the final piece of violence comes when Dana kills Rufus with a knife. There might be part of us that feels sorry for Rufus. But in the final line of the book, Kevin very clearly says he's glad Rufus is dead. Overall, the book might agree with him.