August 7th, 2015
Is the Violence in Kindred Necessary?
In modern society, violence is unquestionably looked down upon. With any type of inhumane abuse, there is a strict set of laws in place to protect victims. However, this was not always the case. In Octavia Butler’s book Kindred, she does not hesitate in intensely describing the unjust and violent exploitation of power by white people against blacks within the 1800’s. Even more so, she uses violence as a dominant theme throughout the entire novel. As always, a sensitive topic like full out physical abuse is hard to handle for some readers, and that makes people question whether the prevalent violent theme in Kindred was truly necessary. Without violence, the novel would never of become such an accurate and view changing story. In fact, removing the violence in the book would of toned down reality and created a misrepresentation of historical fact. The necessity of violence in Kindred was to accurately educate the reader about the never ending abuse which blacks were forced to submit themselves too during the early 1800’s, and without it the novel would of been nothing more than pure fiction.
In 19th century North America, white men held the highest socio-economic status, and had absolute authority over their “inferior” counterparts. Due to this power, society gave them every right to abuse African Americans and make them into slaves, effectively stripping them of all human rights and making violence towards blacks socially acceptable. Unfortunately, not only was it socially acceptable to abuse your slaves, but a slavemaster would be looked down upon if he did not. In Kindred, Tom Weylin shows his authority through regular whippings of slaves. When a field hand responded rudely, “Weylin ordered the man stripped naked and tied to the trunk of a dead tree...Suddenly, he brought the whip down across the slave’s back” (Butler 92). This quote shows how if any slave questioned his master’s authority, they would be immediately punished. Additionally, this was usually not because the slavemasters were evil. Usually, a slavemaster would be a “ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper” (Butler 134). Without the presence of violence, the plantation would have been run in a unrealistic fashion that would not be an accurate representation of the times. The 1800s mentality caused for miscreant personality amongst individuals that was passed on from generation to generation. This continued the cycle of violence in slaves' lives. Growing up, Rufus picked up on his father's example. His father often whipped him, and as Dana observed, "Tom Weylin had probably marked his son more than he knew with that whip." (Butler 39). Tom Weylin did not realize that his abuse was slowly starting to take its toll on his son. When Dana asked Rufus why he tried to burn down the stables, he said "I wanted Daddy to give me Nero- a horse I liked. But he sold him to Reverend
Wyndham just because Reverend Wyndham offered a lot of money. Daddy already has a lot of money. Anyway, I got mad and burned down the stable" (Butler 25). His explanation can be deciphered simply as an act of revenge. When something did not go Rufus's way, he made sure it did by implementing physical force. These tendencies developed at a young age and continued to be intact when he grew up. As the master of the plantation, he constantly raped and abused Alice to quench his sexual desires because he could not accept feelings of frustration and the thought of abandoning the desire. No matter the circumstance, Rufus always made sure that, one way or another, he got his way. Tom Weylin's behavioural tendencies were adopted by Rufus, making life no less violent and terror-filled for the slaves.
Not only was violence necessary to show how it was widely accepted in society, but violence was also used as a method of quitting rebellions through fear....
Cited: Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Boston: Beacon, 2003. Print
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