Dana thinks that being in the antebellum South feels more like home to her then her real home does. I think this is because she is becoming increasing disconnected to her life in 1976. Whenever Dana is home she is always staying inside because she is afraid she will be sent back to Rufus at any given moment. She sends her time waiting by reading about slavery and studying. Therefore, even when she is “home” she is totally and completely consumed by her life in 1815. When Kevin returns to 1976 after five years in the antebellum South he states, “I. wonder how people just out of prison manage to readjust. Kevin, 197 It’s true that 1815 Maryland is difficult for everyone, including white men. However, if he, a white male, felt like he had been in a prison-like environment than he had no idea what Dana must have felt like, because she had to readjust after being a slave.
In addition, it’s almost as though he is supposing or even just accounting for the fact that owning slaves should have been a crime punishable by prison time… Even just being a man in that society and contributing at all by being aggressive towards women or slaves was horrible… o existing in that time as someone with as much power as he had had could make him a criminal by association. This makes sense because in order to fit in there he had to change the way he acted. For example, he publically acted different toward Dana to make others believed he owned her. After five years of acting against the way he knew was right to behave, he must have felt guilty. When Dana returns after 4 years she is questioned by Kevin about her fidelity, while Dana never questioned Kevin after he was gone for five years.
I discussed in my last journal the sexism that we see even in Kevin and Dana’s relationship, so I don’t want to go too in depth here. However, I think this is important to note because Kevin came into the antebellum South already showing misogynistic attitudes, and they seem to have formed from passive aggressive to just aggressive when he returns. He even goes so far as to say that he would understand if she had because he knew what that time was like. He was gone in “that time” significantly longer than she was, so had he partook in any infidelity?
The difference between is that if Kevin had had sex it probably would’ve been because he had wanted to, whereas if Dana had sex it was probably because she was raped. Rufus is having a really intense inner battle throughout these sections. He has always been told at home to treat slaves like property but Dana teaches him to treat them as humans and his feelings for her lead him to want that too. He clearly struggles with what he should do. He punishes Dana when any other slave-owner would’ve, but unlike the others, he feels guilty afterward and tries to make it up to her with gifts.
This truly deep battle arises from the fact that he loves her, which is an unheard of situation for white men at that time. How could he love someone he is supposed to view as property? How do you treat someone who is a slave and yet you care for them? As he grows older his roles change. He had to become the slave-master, not just the son of one. This transition was really difficult and confusing for him, leading to deep depression and him even questioning why he should live. I think this is important because it provides a unique narrative about people like Rufus (white, son of slave-owners) growing up.
In the beginning he calls Sarah, Aunt Sarah and he plays with Nigel, and calls Alice his friend. This slowly fades away as his role changes, forcing him to treat slaves as property instead of equals and friends. I can imagine this would be confusing and awkward for anyone, but it is especially so for Rufus because Dana was always trying to keep him treating blacks as equals, making this transition less straightforward for him. I think Dana perfectly captures this entire theme when she states, “he is all grown up now, and part of the system. He could eel for us a little when his father was running things, when he wasn’t entirely free himself” (223). Both Alice and Dana are treated poorly by the other slaves because they were favored by Rufus. I find this really irritating, but I also understand where they are coming from. First, Dana and Alice are literally forced to do what their master wants, and other slaves should understand this more than anyone else. Also, I understand that the other slaves might be jealous because then Alice and Dana are treated better by Rufus, but wouldn’t they want to be treated better if they had the option? Of course they would!
Another big theme in these two chapters is Dana being a white n•gger Obviously Dana is more educated then a lot of the other slaves because she grew up with the resources they lacked. Therefore she talks “more white” than the other slaves and even knows more than the white adults and doctors. The way she talks isn’t why the other slaves don’t like her. I think they don’t like her because of what that gives her… her education even as a slave opened her up to different opportunities than the others. She could spend time teaching Rufus or caring for the sick while the other slaves had to bust their backs with manual labor.
I think it is interesting that Dana is sort of considered a white person on the inside but a black person on the outside. So the slaves didn’t like her because they saw her as a traitor, and the whites (for the most part) didn’t like her because they were threatened by her. In these last section Dana gets a lot of flack from the other slaves, and Carries (indirectly) states, “She means it doesn’t come off. Dana… The black. She means the devil with people who you’re anything but what you are. “224.
At the end of the day, Dana is still a slave because of her skin color, just like all of them… he way she thinks isn’t white, it’s just educated and anyone can be educated when they have the resources to do so. This is also something Dana obviously struggles with. She has a lot of “privilege” over the other slaves because Rufus favors her, she is smart, and because she gets to go home and be free. “You’ll care. And you’ll help me. Else, you’d have to see yourself for the white nigger you are, and you couldn’t stand that. ” 235 || think Rufus is trying to show her that, technically, Dana doesn’t really have to do anything he says, because if he hurts hurt then she won’t save his life ever again.
She knows this and so she uses it make sure her conditions are never as horrible as they could be. When Kevin is there she sleep with him, and she never goes to bed with Rufus. Basically, she has some say in how she is treated, which is a luxury no other slave has. Therefore, she has to care and help Rufus because if she didn’t XXX At least the slaves knew their situation was bad for them and so they wanted a better future for their children. Slave owners, like Weylin, had no idea their situation made their lives worse and they never fought for a better future for their sons.
Mr. Weylin sets up Rufus’s life to be the same, miserable one he had led. We see Rufus getting more depressed and angry the older he gets and the more he takes on his father’s old job of head of the plantation. This is important to note because no one back then saw the horrible effects slavery had on them. The slaves, on the other hand are always fighting for a better future for their children because their situation is more obviously degrading and harmful. For example, this is illustrated when Nigel states, “good to have sons.
But it’s so hard to see them be slaves” (209). Even the “short” time that Dana lived in the antebellum South affected her, and she became increasing more obedient. When Dana first arrived in 1815 she would stand up for herself and carry herself like a person not a slave. During her last few visits, however, we she her following more orders blindly and not standing up for herself, even when her fellow slaves are talking badly about her. Basically, she learned not to talk back, just like Rufus had to when he was a child (not completely free himself).
Even when her and Kevin are home she responds to his demands saying things like “I obye”. I think this is important because she was always so worried that these experiences would change Kevin, which they did, but they changed her too! When Margaret returns after years of being away, Dana stated that she could “forget to superior sometimes” (226). First of all, Margaret is from a poor family and is a women, so having power and being a superior wasn’t pounded into her at a young age like it had been for Rufus, it was learned when she married Tom (225).
Alice and Margaret are “two halves of the same person. ” 226 It’s almost as though Rufus wouldn’t ever have wanted a romantic relationship with Alice if he hadn’t meant Dana… He loved Dana but knew he couldn’t force to have that kind of relationship with him because she would kill him or at least not save him life again if he tried. He uses Alice to get the sex form her that he knew he could never have with Dana. This makes sense considering they look the same and both are strong, outspoken women. I think this is the reason Dana is called back in time to save him and be apart of his life.
If she had never saved him then Rufus wouldn’t have grown up loving and needing her, meaning he wouldn’t have had relations with Alice because she reminded him of Dana. In addition, If Dana didn’t have the option and ability to randomly leave then Rufus wouldn’t be so careful about protecting her needs and wishes. Therefore, Dana was essential in the role of Alice and Rufus’s relations, without which Dana would never have been born! Dana even recognizes that she possessed the tool of “abandonment. The one weapon Alice didn’t have” (257). Dana was able to leave Rufus forever, so he had to be careful with how he treated her.
Therefore, Dana had some power of Rufus, which is something Alice was never able to. I also think that Rufus knows that Dana might kills him when he tries to have sex with her. At that point, Alice is dead, and he doesn’t see a lot of reason to live anyway. He is overcome by his need to control her and make her feel his love. In addition, this happens right before he and Dana have a big conversation in which it becomes obvious to him that Dana doesn’t want to come back to him, she wants to abandon him and will do so whenever she has the option to.
This is why Rufus attacks her, he knows this could be his last chance to have her and his greatest fear, that of abandonment, is now unavoidable whether he rapes her or not. Kevins states, “Everything is so soft here’, he said, ‘so easy… ” when he has returned after 5 years in the 1800’s. I find this ironic based on the that fact that before he had ever been to the antebellum south he complained about life there being difficult. For example, they called the factory work he had done early like a slaver job. 193