In Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred, Dana travels back in time and history to experience her own personal ancestors’ lives. As Dana is transported between her present time in 1976 and the mid-1800s, she sparks multiple relationships with her ancestors, which could permanently change the course of history. Several times throughout the novel, Dana mentions that one small act could either positively or negatively impact her historical timeline. While reading this novel, there is a familiarly similar realization seen early on regarding the relationship between Dana and one of her ancestors, Alice. Alice’s breaking point was believing that her children were sold into slavery and Dana’s breaking point was discovering that Alice had committed suicide.
The correlation between Dana and Alice becomes the most prominent in the novel when their relationship comes to an end. This scene is when Dana discovers that her ancestor Alice has hung herself. Alice’s suicide came as a shocking moment in the novel at first but after reanalyzing the moment leading up to her death, it seems inevitable. Alice suffers from mental and physical abuse in her daily routine for many years. The only will to keep living and to bear this trauma are her children. Alice being under the manipulative grasp of Rufus aided her into believing that he sold their children into slavery. Stated earlier in the novel, Dana says that Alice “couldn’t bring herself to run away again or to kill him and face her own death. She couldn’t do anything at all except make herself more miserable” (180).
Dana discovering Alice’s lifeless body makes her come to her own realization that she could have easily been in Alice’s position of desperation. The main difference between Alice’s and Dana’s mindsets on freedom is the fact that Dana finds the will to be alive by continuing to fight, but Alice feels trapped and figures her only way to achieve freedom is to commit suicide. The rope that Alice hangs herself with represents Rufus’s controlling hold on Alice and her actions. Even in death, Alice is constrained and held back, and the rope ultimately gives her the freedom she is seeking.
Although abusive relationships like Rufus and Alice have is a tough situation to picture, it is a horrible reality still today. Women and men are both victims of domestic violence which involves constant physical and mental abuse. Alice is a victim of domestic abuse but in her time, the definition of right and wrong was altered in a way where violence is normalized.