Home > Uncategorized > The Power of a Novel

The Power of a Novel

I find myself in an interesting position. Because I didn’t make it to class today, I have no idea what you all discussed on Kindred… So I hope this doesn’t sound too repetitive of the points brought up today.

For me, I really enjoyed Kindred. I can’t deny that I was fully invested in Butler’s narrative. I would fret over Dana’s pain and decisions. I was upset when she returned without Bill, when Weylin beat her, etc. I was definitely emotionally effected by the novel.

That being said, there are some issues that I have with Butler’s novel as I put it in the context of our pervious class discussions. Immediately I think of our criticisms of Love Cemetery. Particularly the scene when Galland attempts to “experience” what a captured black woman would have being sold into slavery. While Butler’s narrative is compelling and, as far as I know, historically accurate, should we criticize her attempts to experience slavery in the same way we did Galland? Does this criticism change because Butler was an African American woman writing in the 1970’s? She was alive for the civil rights movement, and probably experienced the prejudice of her time period, so does that mean we think she’s more qualified to speak on the horrors of slavery?

I think these are fair questions, but I also think the structure of Butler’s narrative in a way protects it from such accusations. Dana is a woman living in 1976. She’s a twentieth century woman, and she is thrown into the world of slavery, and reacts accordingly. She uses her knowledge to survive and reacts to the horrors she sees as a woman who grew up in a version of America that we can understand. So really, what Butler did in Kindred wasn’t the same as Galland’s musings on slavery, and I think that’s why the novel was easier for me to accept. It wasn’t a twentieth century woman writing the inner thoughts of a nineteenth century character, but a character we could connect with, experiencing events in slavery. It’s similar to any other novel we read. We know it’s a work of fiction, but it draws us in because we identify with the main character’s decisions, and we’re changed by the last page.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. jvittorio
    March 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    As far as the question concerning Butler’s interpretation of the slave experience as opposed to Galland’s, I personally did not find Butler’s writing offensive simply because she seemed to use a more appropriate medium. Galland set her book up to be more of a personal account of her experiences with reconciling slave cemeteries in our society today, it was meant to be a work of non-fiction, so for her to randomly interject a fantastical narrative about her imaginary experience as an African slave is completely out of context and extremely offensive. Butler, on the other hand, approaches the entire topic as a work of fiction, and by doing so there are certain concessions that are automatically made about the accuracy of the work, as well as her role in portraying the events that are depicted in the novel, so it takes away the offensive aspect because she does not come off as presumptuous in assuming that she understands or can even sympathize what that experience was actually like. Just my opinion though 🙂

    That was kind of a long comment, but I really enjoyed your post!

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