Analysis of Characters from Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

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The harsh characteristics of a monster are shown through Rufus’s upbringing and lineage allowing for the false perspective of deserved power. This leads to a distorted sense of superiority, and therefore corrupt actions. Rufus’s first instinct as a young boy is pure, as he knows Alice, Nigel and Dana are worthy of respect and equality, but his lineage of being a white male born into a plantation owner’s family distorts his humaine instincts. Upon arriving in the past when Rufus’s life was in danger due to the drapes on fire, he calls Dana a “nigger” (Butler 59), but Dana then corrects him and asks him to call her a “black woman” instead (59). His lineage or predisposed genetics push him to use the n-word and welcome alike thoughts into his mind, as though they were normal.

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Dana’s correction is welcomed by Rufus at that time because as a young boy he is oblivious to the extreme racial prejudice of his society. This innocence is ripped away as he slowly recognizes the connotation of his skin and the actions his father is demonstrating as another fellow while male, pushing Rufus to do the same, corrupting the power Rufus is given upon his birth. Furthermore, Rufus’s childhood deems it difficult for him to stay morally coherent since he is desensitized towards all immoral actions due to his parenting and how they treat others as he is growing up. Dana’s efforts to instill a sense of kindness within Rufus at a young age fails, as he eventually does turn out like his father. His father constantly abusing slaves, Dana, and even Rufus at times while misusing his power, internalizes within Rufus during his infancy days. Dana narrates, “For once, the small boy looked like a smaller replica of his father...He spoke quietly now as Weylin sometimes did when he was angry. ‘You’re making me sick, Mama. Get away from me!’” (Butler 104).

As seen done multiple times by his father, Rufus disrespects his mother, like it is a natural phenomenon. Rufus has been habituated to think a certain type of way, and he cannot help but believe what he does since it is the only way he has been conditioned to treat others. His upbringing during the time's Dana was absent, shapes Rufus due to his familial ways, which demonstrates an abuse of power and the corrupt actions towards African Americans, allowing no chance but for Rufus to start developing monstrous characteristics that become rooted within his subconscious. In addition to his lineage and childhood, Rufus also depicts the characteristics of a monster as he inherits the power of a plantation owner as an adult. This inheritance establishes a superiority complex as he is now fully immersed in the ideals of his father. When Dana returns to the past, seeing Isaac attacking Rufus, she saves him only to find out, the fight was due to Rufus raping Isaac’s girlfriend, Alice. This is shown when Rufus says, “I wouldn’t have hurt her if she hadn’t just kept saying no.” (Butler 123).

Rufus’s beliefs prove that he thinks that Alice has no rights to anything, not even her own body and that he can have her if he wanted to. This morbid mindset is the result of years of instilling an abuse of power within Rufus by his father. Rufus’s upbringing gave him the tools to wield his power just as his father did, but upon fully inheriting his own plantation, his mentality truly shift. Due to Rufus’s lineage as a white male, his childhood upbringing by his father, and his inheritance of power as an adult, he demonstrates the corruptness towards others, showing his true colors as a monster in this novel.  

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