After discussion in class about Kindred, I really wanted to look at Dana’s major turning point in the novel and how it brought her to kill Rufus in the end. Throughout the novel Dana has been trying to look past the bad in Rufus and forgive him for what he does. Their relationship has always seemed to have a very distinct line as to what was okay for how he treated her and what he did to her. In the beginning, Rufus never physically beat Dana or tried to take advantage of her. However, there is a point in the novel where Rufus crosses the line with Dana and this is what I think is the beginning of Dana’s major change.
There had been a field hand that had seemed to have taken an interest in Dana, named Sam. He talked to her a couple of times, but once he was told to leave Dana alone because he would risk being sold if he didn’t, he stopped talking to her. Dana then tells Rufus that she doesn’t want him to sell Sam because when Sam had talked to her that it was a meaningless conversation. Plus, all of his family was on the Weylin plantation and she didn’t think it was acceptable when families were separated, something Rufus said he wouldn’t do. But, one day Dana walks outside and sees that Sam has been sold. Dana is upset and is trying to reason with Rufus when she explains “he hit me. It was a first, and so unexpected that I stumbled backward and fell. And it was a mistake. It was the breaking of an unspoken agreement between us – a very basic agreement – and he knew it” (238). This is when Rufus first goes against what Dana has said to him. He hit her, something that had never been done to her by Rufus before; usually the overseer or Tom Weylin was the one to do the whipping. This angered Dana and gave her the feeling of betrayal by Rufus causing her, for the first time, to put herself face to face with death so that she could transport back to 1976.
When she is back in 1976 with Kevin, she explains to him that she slit her wrists to get back. After it has been a while since she has been in the current time, she and Kevin talk about Rufus and the unspoken agreement that she and him have. Dana has told Kevin all that Rufus has done to Alice, and Kevin asks “what’s he done to you?” (245). Dana continues on to tell him that Rufus
sent me to the field, had me beaten, made me spend nearly eight months sleeping on the floor of his mother’s room, sold people … He’s done plenty, but the worst of it was to other people. He hasn’t raped me, Kevin. He understands, though you don’t seem to, that for him that would be a form of suicide. (245)
By Dana stating that if Rufus ever tried to take advantage of her that she would kill him, shows that there is a line that Dana has drawn and that if Rufus tries to cross it that he will die. There is only so much that Dana will put up with because she still knows that she isn’t really part of this time. She can deal with the physical pain that is caused because she knows that it was her free will that caused her to get a beating. She knows that it was her choice, that she is still a human when she gets physically beat. But she will not let Rufus take advantage of her, because if he does that to her it doesn’t mean that she has done anything to deserve it. At that point, she has been completely dehumanized and become a piece of property. And that she will not allow.
Right before Dana kills Rufus, he makes an advance at her. He tells Dana that she and Alice were basically one person, they looked alike and he longed for Dana how he had once longed for Alice now. Rufus started getting physical with Dana at this point and had a hold of her. Once she got free from him, she went up to the attic to get the knife that she had brought with her. Rufus followed her up to the attic and trapped her in a corner when he started to make his advances on her. Dana says, “I could accept him as my ancestor, my younger brother, my friend, but not as my master, and not as my lover. He had understood that once” (260). The way that this passage is written explains that Dana would endure the physical pain that he could cause but she was never going to be made a slave, and that her very last straw would be when Rufus tried to make her his lover. She was not going to be dehumanized. Once Rufus had attempted to cross this line, she knew that his only fate was going to be death; and this she held true to.