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Reality in Fiction

In class today, we discussed why we weren’t as…annoyed by Butler’s portrayal of slavery as we were by Galland’s “empathetic” episode at the memorial in Dallas. The only full explanation I could really come up with is we feel much safer exploring what the reality of slavery was like from the safety of fiction. Whereas we felt Galland was making large assumptions that her race and experience did not enable her to make, Butler looks at slavery from the limited perspective of one character’s interaction with one group of people she meets in the past. Butler even takes this a step further by insuring that this character comes into the story, and therefore the past, with the same post-Civil Rights movement perspective as her readers do.

It could be argued that this style of narrative plays into the “Mary Sue” category where the main character serves as a vehicle for the reader to enter into the story. But I think Butler elevates this classic SciFi trope by creating a severely complicated situation for Dana. Not only is she being jerked into the past at unexpected times, but she has to deal with being subjugated to the whims of her ancestor and deal with the inevitable nature of history that pervades most time travel narratives. No matter how hard she tries, Dana can’t change the ingrained ideas of the master/slave dyad, nor can she change the relationship between Rufus and Alice because her existence depends on it. Dana’s helplessness in the face of history is the same as a slave’s helplessness in the face of her master. She could escape it, but the cost might be her life.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I had never really thought of Dana as this “Mary Sue” character, simply because that term conjures horrible memories of Twilight. It does seem like Butler did put a lot of herself into Dana, but managed to avoid the hideousness that comes with a full-blown Mary Sue.

  2. krcoleman
    March 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I definitely agree that we’re more accepting of Butler’s reimagination of slavery more than Galland’s because Butler did seem to keep a respectable difference between herself and the topic. Rather than wedging herself into the narrative awkwardly Butler wrote enough of herself into Dana that Dana felt multi-dimensional but recognized that she was not actually a slave and had no authority to speak directly of the slave experience.

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