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Kindred : Top Ten Quotes

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  1. “I had seen people beaten on television and in the movies. I had seen the too-red blood substitute streaked across their backs and heard their well-rehearsed screams. But I hadn’t lain nearby and smelled their sweat or heard them pleading and praying, shamed before their families and themselves. I was probably less prepared for the reality than the child crying not far from me. In fact, she and I were reacting very much alike. My face too was wet with tears. And my mind was darting from one thought to another, trying to tune out the whipping. At one point, this last cowardice even brought me something useful. A name for whites who rode through the night in the ante bellum [sic] South, breaking in doors and beating and otherwise torturing black people.”

    pp. 36-37 Dana is describing the horror of watching a black man whipped by patrollers outside of Alice’s mother’s cabin during the first time that she time travels to antebellum Maryland. Until that time, the true horrors of slavery were remote for her, unreal. Watching a whipping take place, however, is unbearably real for her.
  2. “I sighed. ‘So the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to believe I could survive even a few more trips to a place like that. There’s just too much that could go wrong.’

    ‘Will you stop that! Look, your ancestors survived that era—survived it with fewer advantages than you have. You’re no less than they are.’

    ‘In a way, I am.’

    ‘What way?’

    ‘Strength. Endurance. To survive, my ancestors had to put up with more than I ever could. Much more. You know what I mean.’”

    p. 51 Dana, after realizing that she will be called back to Rufus’s time again and again, tells Kevin that she is afraid she cannot survive that time period. As a modern, educated woman living in an era of equality, she is unprepared for the everyday hardships her black ancestors underwent just to stay alive. Dana cannot match their endurance either physically or mentally, she thinks.
  3. “A place like this would endanger him in a way I didn’t want to talk to him about. If he was stranded here for years, some part of this place would rub off on him. No large part, I knew. But if he survived here, it would be because he managed to tolerate the life here. He wouldn’t have to take part in it, but he would have to keep quiet about it. Free speech and press hadn’t done too well in the ante bellum South. Kevin wouldn’t do too well either. The place, the time would either kill him outright or mark him somehow. I didn’t like either possibility.”

    p. 77 Dana accepts that Kevin, a white man, will not find life in antebellum Maryland as physically hard as she does, but she fears that it will harm him emotionally. As a modern man used to racial equality, he will find it hard to keep quiet about racial injustice in the South. Either he will speak out and be killed for his ideas, or he will have to let those ideas rot in silence, at great danger to his spirit.
  4. “I thought of Rufus and his father, of Rufus becoming his father. It would happen some day in at least one way. Someday Rufus would own the plantation. someday, he would be the slaveholder, responsible in his own right for what happened to the people who lived in those half-hidden cabins. The boy was literally growing up as I watched—growing up because I watched and because I helped to keep him safe. I was the worst possible guardian for him—a black to watch over him in a society that considered women perennial children. I would have all I could do to look after myself. But I would help him as best I could. And I would try to keep friendship with him, maybe plant a few ideas in his mind that would help both me and the people who would be his slaves in the years to come. I might even be making things easier for Alice.”

    p. 68 Dana has accepted that she is, for some reason, fated to save Rufus, and she decides to use her influence to make him into a man whose morals and integrity will make him better than his father. She hopes that in this small way, at least, she can change history on Weylin Plantation.
  5. “And I began to realize why Kevin and I had fitted in so easily into this time. We weren’t really in. We were observers watching a show. We were watching history happen around us. And we were actors. While we waited to go home, we humored the people around us by pretending to be like them. But we were poor actors. We never really got into our roles. We never forgot that we were acting.”

    p. 98 Dana is trying to pinpoint why she and Kevin are turning a blind eye to the injustices they see. She realizes that they are just playacting, rather than acting on their beliefs in freedom and equality. They seem to be caught in the idea that 1876 is not their time, that they must protect themselves by not getting involved. Dana is beginning to see that this detachment is wrong.
  6. “She had done the safe thing—had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid. She was the kind of woman who might have been called ‘mammy’ in some other household. She was the kind of woman who would be held in contempt during the militant nineteen sixties. The house-nigger, the handkerchief-head, the female Uncle Tom—the frightened powerless woman who had already lost all she could stand to lose, and who knew as little about freedom of the North as she knew about the hereafter.”

    p. 145 When Dana tells Sarah about all the people who did escape North and find freedom, Sarah does not believe her. She refuses to hear about the possibility of freedom. She has told herself that “ ‘Things ain’t bad here. I can get along,’” because she is too afraid to fight for her freedom. She has seen what has happened to runaway slaves who were caught. Dana realizes that Sarah is the terrible reality behind the smoothed-over images of the “mammy” in books and movies. she is also the reality behind the frightened woman whom modern generations, not understanding the true horror of slavery, condemn as a coward.
  7. “I felt as though I were losing my place here in my own time. Rufus’s time was a sharper, stronger reality. The work was harder, the smells and tastes were stronger, the danger was greater, the pain was worse . . . [sic] Rufus’s time demanded things of me that had never been demanded before, and it could easily kill me if I did not meet its demands. That was a stark, powerful reality that the gentle conveniences and luxuries of this house, of now, could not touch.”

    p. 191 Dana is describing how difficult it is to accept modern comforts as real. Somehow, conveniences like dish washers and typewriters seem to muffle reality, while day-to-day living in Rufus’s time seems raw and unmuffled, and therefore it seems more real to both her and Kevin. And it is much more violent and dangerous.”
  8. “He did that all day. Coming up suddenly, shouting at me, ordering me to go faster no matter how fast I went, cursing me, threatening me. he didn’t hit me that often, but he kept me on edge because I never knew when a blow would fall. It got so just the sound of his coming terrified me. I caught myself cringing, jumping at the sound of his voice.”

    p. 212 Dana is describing how the overseer, Evan Fowler, treats her on her day in the fields. She realizes that no matter what fantasies she may have had of standing up to her oppressors—like modern people believe it is easy to do—cruel treatment will quickly condition a slave to accept enslavement.
  9. “He was not hurting me, would not hurt me if I remained as I was. He was not his  father, old and ugly, brutal and disgusting. he smelled of soap, as though he had bathed recently—for me? The red hair was neatly combed and a little damp. I would never be to him what Tess had been to his father—a thing passed around like the whiskey jug at a husking. he wouldn’t do that to me or sell me or . . .“No." I could feel the knife in  my hand, still slippery with perspiration. A slave was a slave. Anything could be done to her.”

    p. 260 As Rufus tries to seduce Dana, the reality of the moment is overwhelming, more real than her own time. She finds herself slipping into the same complacency she has observed in other slaves, like Sarah or Carrie, a complacency in which they have convinced themselves that things are not so bad, that slavery is tolerable. But then Dana remembers that slavery is not always tolerable and terrible, painful, dehumanizing things can happen to a slave. Her modern sensibilities take over, and she sees that she cannot become Rufus’s mistress, even if she has to kill him.
  10. “Rufus came out to play hero for providing such a good meal, and the people gave him the praise he wanted. Then they made gross jokes about him behind his back. Strangely, they seemed to like him, hold him in contempt, and fear him all at the same time. This confused me because I felt about the same mixture of emotions for him myself. I had thought my feelings were complicated because he and I had such a strange relationship. But then, slavery of any kind fostered strange relationships. Only the overseer drew simple, unconflicting emotions of hatred and fear when he appeared briefly. But then, it was part of the overseer’s job to be hated and feared while the master kept his hands clean.”

    p. 229 During a party for the slaves, Dana observes the strange dynamics of being a slave.  Slavery is a state of mind, she realizes, in which the mind can accept enslavement but still desire freedom. Only great fear tips the balance toward accepting slavery and making freedom mentally impossible. Slavery is not merely a physical state.


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