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Political to Personal

I found Steinberg’s analysis of the parallels between past and present in Kindred to be very valuable, if possibly giving too much credit to Butler’s intentions. I did think though that the parallels he found between Kevin and Rufus might be stretched a little too far. While the points made are valid- Butler definitely encourages readers to see similarities between Rufus and Kevin- the conclusions drawn from this take the issue a little too literally for me. As Steinberg says, “although Dana’s marriage to Kevin appears to be secure, Butler suggests that, for black women, interracial heterosexual marriage, too, might be a form oppression not unlike chattel slavery” (470). This is a good point but it also important to remember that “might” is an important word here. I don’t think it would be fair to suggest that the legacy of slavery remains as strong as during the years of slavery nor do I think it would be fair to assume that interracial heterosexual marriages are inherently at risk for becoming forms of “chattel slavery”. This dramatic conclusion continues when he says that “the line between slavery and marriage is further blurred in the present when Dana’s friends and family, oblivious to her time travel, confuse the markings from her beating with marks she suffers from spousal abuse in her marriage to Kevin” (469). What he does not mention is a very important piece of his argument- Kevin is not responsible for Dana’s injuries. Glossing over this takes the political issue and turns into a personal issue between Rufus and Dana- one which might not even exist at all. I feel that Steinberg has taken a very valid political and social concern, that of continuing oppression that mirrors slavery, and overgeneralized it.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. lhennigan
    March 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    I felt like in a few of the arguments made in the critical essay he took things totally out of context. I found his argument troublesome particularly in comparing Kevin to a modern day slave holding male, which he draws his conclusion from Dana being married to him. I think the author doesn’t expand enough on his arguments to make me believe anything he says. I agree with Lily that Steinberg simply overgeneralized his concerns and applied them to parts of Kindred that weren’t totally relevant.

  2. March 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I also had a hard time grasping this part of the critical essay. I mean, I read what Steinberg posited about the parallels between the two characters and thought, “well, I did not actually see it that way when I was reading it, but maybe I can see where these oppressor arguments apply to Kevin??” This was the only thing in the essay that did not absolutely enthrall me; I was left half persuaded.

  3. krcoleman
    March 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I agree. As is pretty obvious in my own post, I’m basically advocating for Kevin as an underrepresented presence in the book, but I definitely feel like there were some distinct differences between Kevin and Rufus that Steinberg completely disregarded. It seems to me that Steinberg really just saw two White men and assumed they were intended to be mirrors of each other rather than considering the possibilty that they were potential inverses of each other. Either way, I’m Team Kevin.

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