People hear the word “disability” and often think of the most obvious types of disabilities: mobility, visual or hearing impairments. However, disability may be physical, mental, be readily observed or unseen; disabilities may result from a variety of causes.The definition of disability is quite problematic and complex. In the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990, disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines disability as “the condition of being disabled.” However, disability is a misused title in today’s society. Everyone has a sort of disability; a way of not fitting in; a way of not being “able.” More or less, when one hears the word “disability,” he or she thinks of a physical condition pertaining to the body. People who are classified as having a physical disability are seen having deformity of limbs, paralysis, cerebral palsy, or other physical abnormalities. However, in the nineteenth century people had different “types” of physical disabilities. Douglas Baynton states in his article, Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History, “By the mid-nineteenth century, non-white races were routinely connected to people with disabilities, both of whom were depicted as evolutionary laggards or throwbacks. As a consequence, the concept of disability, intertwined with the concept of race” (Baynton 35). In Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred, the story of the time travel back to the early nineteenth century of a middle-aged African American woman living in the late 1970s is told. Butler uses not only the color of her skin, but also the neglecting of the woman’s body, to narrate the story of antebellum slavery in the south. Kindred represents the misuse of the body through disabilities and how slavery supports types of disabilities significance on the body Dana, the main character in the novel Kindred by Octavia Butler, is abled, yet in a sense disabled from her experiences. Dana is the narrator and heroine of the novel. She is a young African American woman who recently relocated to San Francisco with her white husband, Kevin. Dana constantly finds herself brought back into the antebellum South of the nineteenth century where she struggles to establish a new identity and battles her conscience, while maintaining her freedom. Rufus, her ancestor, is her ticket to survival; therefore she must ensure his survival. Due to her skin color, Dana is forced to work on a plantation during her trips into the past. She performs jobs such as taking care of others, cooking, and cleaning. Although Dana never experiences working in the field like a typical slave, she still suffers the pain one working in the field would experience; twice her “master” Tom Weylin whips her. However, whenever Dana is in a near death situation, she is brought forward to her present time, 1976. Butler opens her story with Dana in the hospital, stating, “I lost my arm my last trip home. My left arm” (Butler 9). Dana goes on to explain the opening scene and she states, “I was almost comfortable except for the strange throbbing of my arm. Of where my arm had been. I moved my head, tried to look at the empty place … the stump” (Butler 10). Each time Dana comes forward to her present life she experiences a new and more excruciating pain. She comes back wet, muddy and her back was sore after first time in the past. Dana’s second trip back, she is bruised and cut up from almost being raped by a patroller. Her next time back from the nineteenth century, she returns without Kevin and her back torn up from being whipped by Tom Weylin. Dana’s fourth return home she once again hurt her back because Rufus tried shooting her. In reaction, she fell on the ground with Kevin on top of her to assure his return to present the time. Yet, Dana’s last...
Cited: Baynton, Douglas. “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History.” The New Disability History. Eds. Paul K. Longmore and Lauri Umansky. New York: New York University Press, 2001. 33-57. Print.
Butler, Octavia. Kindred. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979. Print.
Crossley, Robert. "Critical Essay." University of Massachusetts at Boston, 2003. Print.
Gay, Patricia. "Slavery as a Sexual Atrocity." Mendeley. 6.1 (1999): 5-10. Print.
Merriam-Webster, . "Disabled." Merriam-Webster Dicitionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov 2011.
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