Prompt #7

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I have chosen to write about Kindred since I did my provocation on the book and I felt that a lot of the topics Octavia Butler addresses were interesting to me. I really like her writing style as it was easy for me to understand what was going on and I knew from the start that I wanted to address feminism, so Kindred provided me with the opportunity to discuss feminism, both in regard to my provocation and this essay.

I was really drawn to black female agency, in particular focusing on Dana and Alice. This connects well to my provocation as it deals with intersectionality, even if I don’t specifically address intersectionality in my essay. I wanted to address self-harm as a means of control in discussing Alice’s suicide and the part where Dana cuts her wrists in order to return home. I also wanted to touch on the conflict Dana feels between asserting her agency and staying safe.

My thesis is something along the lines of: In this essay, I argue that Octavia Butler uses allusion and characterization in the novel Kindred to depict the attempts of black women to assert their own agencies in spite of oppression.

Primary Evidence: “He had all the low cunning of his class. No, I couldn’t refuse to help the girl-help her avoid at least some pain. But she wouldn’t think much of me for helping her this way. I didn’t think much of myself” (164)

“I’m not property, Kevin. I’m not a horse or a sack of wheat. If I have to seem to be property, if I have to accept limits on my freedom for Rufus’s sake, then he also has to accept limits – on his behavior toward me. He has to leave me enough control of my own life to make living look better than killing and dying” (246)

“’You’re a good girl,’ she said to me once as I sat near her bed stitching a slip cover. ‘Much better than you used to be. Someone must have taught you to behave’” (219)

“’I ought to take a knife in there with me and cut his damn throat.’ She glared at me. ‘Now go tell him that! Tell him I’m talking ‘bout killing him!’” (167)

“’In the Bible, people might be slaves for a while, but they didn’t have to stay slaves’” (234)

“I wanted to ask him what he would do with my letter if I didn’t burn the map. I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to hear an answer that might send me out to face another patrol or earn another whipping. I wanted to do things the easy way if I could. I wanted to stay here and let a letter go to Boston and bring Kevin back to me” (143).

Dana cuts her wrists to return home (239)

(Alice killing herself instead of killing Rufus) ‘”I thought all that, but I wasn’t afraid. Because if she killed me, that would be that. Nothing else would matter. But if I lived, I would have her. And, by God, I had to have her” (257).

“I would never be to him what Tess had been to his father-a thing passed around like the whiskey jug at a husking” (260)

“’You’re damn right I am.’ I spoke very softly. ‘I won’t bargain away my husband or my freedom!’” (142)

Secondary Evidence: “Dana hopes to create conditions under which the coupling of Rufus and Alice might be less like what slavery dictates and more like what she imagines a modern, healthy heterosexual pairing to be” (110).

“The problems Dana finds in her violated expectations are symptomatic of a larger problem—slavery’s slow violation of the black sense of self—but because she voluntarily exceeds it, this violation becomes even more effective” (114).

“Ultimately, Rufus could have chosen other than to rape Alice. Her abused body, which Rufus purchases in a confused performance of affection and ownership, marks both her refusal of him and her powerless to enact that claim” (394-5).

“This novel allows Rufus this confused yearning for Alice at the same time making it clear Alice’s complete disapproval and disbelief. For Alice, love can and must exist completely outside of antebellum social registers, beyond abolitionist rhetoric, and more deeply than in empty sentimental claims” (395).

The evidence from the secondary sources definitely supports my thesis and it allows me to build off of their points in order to gain a deeper understanding of the text itself.

I’m very confident about my evidence, especially from the secondary sources. I’m have a lot of trouble grouping the evidence together and analyzing it well as I feel that my thesis isn’t very strong and I’m not sure how to analyze evidence well without a strong thesis. I’m also extremely confused in regard to literary terms because I’m not sure how to analyze them in a way that supports my thesis.

-M

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