The issue of racial inequality and prejudices has been one of the most bothering and important problems of the modern world for centuries. It has touched millions of destinies of people with different backgrounds and of various races and cultures. Over time most of the prejudices and judgments towards the people of color have been eliminated, yet this issue still remains a question of high importance today.
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The novel called “Kindred” written by Octavia E. Butler in 1979 touches the problem of racial discrimination and brings out its most awful sides. The author of the novel intended to show the contrast between the past of the relationships between the races and their modern status. Octavia E. Butler’s skilful writing is focused on the horrible history of slavery on the territory of the United States, it shows the scary experiences that African-Americans bad been put through daily in the past through the eyes of an African-American woman living in the 70’s.
The contemporary readers of “Kindred” get to see much more perspective of this issue than the ones of 1979 because some significant changes happened in the world’s and the American society in aspects related to the attitude towards races and backgrounds of people since that time.
Octavia E. Butler grew up during the frustrating times of racial discrimination in a racially-mixed society in Pasadena, California. She first showed her interest towards science-fiction writing at the age of twelve years. “Kindred” is based on a fictional story, yet the novel cannot be called science-fiction as it lacks scientific explanations of the reasons of the mysterious events happening to the main characters that are necessary in science-fiction.
Octavia E. Butler employs the elements of fiction in order to create a conflict that would not be possible under normal circumstances. The main character of the novel, named Dana, is being pulled to the past and visits the beginning of 1900s. She gets to observe and participate in the life of slaves and their owners and discovers that some of the people she interacts with, both slaves and slave owners, are her ancestors. “Kindred” leaves its readers with the most striking and shocking experience of witnessing the painful and merciless realities of slavery. The author spent a lot of effort researching the history of that time in order to make her descriptions very precise and detailed so that they have the strongest effect on the reader.
The time travel leaves the main characters physically and emotionally injured. Dana states that “there isn’t any safe way to almost kill yourself” (Butler, 1). The dramatic events happening to Dana and her white husband Kevin serve artistic and educational purposes for the readers of “Kindred”. Surprisingly, the characters are not trying to change or influence the past, like the main heroes of many other time travel novels do (Walton, par. 4).
Putting her characters through sufferings and tortures Octavia E. Butler vividly demonstrates the contrast between the two epochs. While in the Antebellum South African-Americans are treated as property of white people, insulted, abused and hurt daily, in the 1970s the two races can marry each other and pursue various careers, but there are still strong prejudices against the inter-racial unions and Kevin’s family does not approve of his choice of a spouse.
The contemporary readers live in times with more tolerance, more freedom and better understanding and appreciation of racial equality, this is why they get to see that the modern society is still going through its stages of development and to notice its progress. To my mind, as the time passes the novel “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler does not lose its value and importance, but obtains new perspectives and levels.
Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. London: Hachette, 2014. Print.
Walton, Jo. Time Travel and Slavery: Octavia Butler’s Kindred. 2009. Web.