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What about Kevin?

One thing we talked about extensively last week when discussing Kindred was Butler’s intentional decision to tell the story from a first person point of view, rather than have an omniscient narrator calling the shots. While I agree that this choice allowed us to gain some insight into how Dana felt throughout the experience, I feel like poor Kevin was consistently left in the dark. The first time Dana disappeared, Kevin was left wondering if he was simply crazy. Another time Kevin was literally dragged back with her, and then left abandoned for five yearsbefore Dana returned and was able to bring him home. Then when Kevin finally did get back, he got accused of being a wife beater!

In all seriousness, though, especially after reading the Steinberg article and its multiple references comparing the similarities between Kevin and Rufus, I think that having Kevin’s side of the story could have provided a really interesting counterpoint to Dana’s. For much of Dana’s ordeal in the Weylin home she is separated from Kevin, so we have no idea what information he may have received, what he might have seen or had access too. One major thing that bothered me was the lack of explanation when Kevin finally made it back after five years and was struggling to readjust to 1976 life. Dana obviously can’t know or understand all of what happened to Kevin, and when he and Dana are attempting to talk Kevin simply says, “Five years is longer than it sounds. So much longer.” (193). As much as Dana was left less than whole by her experiences (literally missing an arm and emotionally and psychologically damaged), I would almost argue that Kevin was left equally if not more haunted. He has clearly changed after he returns, but very little explanation is given by him or Butler, and the reader is left to simply assume, “Well, slavery changes people. Moving on.”

Another level of the story which I feel like could have been amplified by having some insight into Kevin’s experiences goes back to Steinberg’s comparison between Rufus and Kevin. Steinberg points out Dana’s tendency to find herself in relationships with powerful white men who seek to control her, Rufus as her literal master and Kevin as her pseudo-master under the assumption that for Black women, marrying a White man is similar to slavery. Dana herself mentions how Kevin’s voice now resembles Rufus’s after his five years in the nineteenth century. I feel like here it would have been interesting to know if Kevin had seen any of these similarities between Rufus and himself. Maybe that’s part of why Kevin’s relationship with Dana changed so drastically – he spent so much time around the man who tried to own her that he could no longer see a way in which to continue with their marriage without similar results. I understand that the point of Butler’s novel was to reexamine the slave narrative and experience and perhaps draw some connections between nineteenth century slavery and twentieth century America, but I can’t help but keep asking myself: what about Kevin?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    You make some really good points. I especially like what you mentioned about the fact that after he was gone for five years, all they really say is that it was a long time…which we already gathered. I hadn’t really thought about it while reading because I was so invested in Dana, but now that I have a chance….poor Kevin : (

  2. March 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Seeing Kevin’s story would have been an interesting inclusion – how would a white man perceive the actions of his ancestors?

  3. dave
    April 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Hi, I am really interested in reading this “stienberg article” could someone please link it to me. thank you

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