Kindred challenges the fundamentals of this belief by presenting time as a circular concept. In the narrative, which is itself told in a non-linear manner, time is folded into and upon itself in a way that disrupts the “order” we come to seek in it. Dana’s world is inextricably linked to that of her ancestors, and a mutual dependency is formed between Dana and her white ancestor from generations ago, Rufus. Neither person can exist in his or her respective time period without the help of the other, just as the past, present, and future exist not as separate entities but as three parts of a single unit.
This temporal relationship is reflected in the social relationships that develop as a result of the time travel, most notably that between Dana and Rufus. As the spoiled only son of a white plantation owner in the antebellum South, Rufus immediately categorizes Dana as a lesser being, in accordance to everything he was raised to believe in the environment he exists in. Dana, a determined black female author from 1976, does not quietly accept the enslaved role that this time travel has ordained her to play (and in many ways never does), challenging Rufus at the risk of her life. Despite this, Rufus and Dana form an odd sort of friendship in which each does care for the other, though perhaps in a misguided sort of way. Transcending, challenging, and subverting this “friendship” is the literal life-and-death mutual dependency that Rufus and Dana have with each other. Here it is not only implied but literally presented that each would die without the other, a link that speaks to the undeniable relationship between black and white histories in this country.
While it is true that Kindred deals in time travel, and delivers its message through the implications and nuances unique to this theme, it separates itself from the world of science fiction by focusing not on the time travel itself, but rather the relationship that reveals itself as a result of the time travel. Upon realizing that she has been forced through time to the antebellum South, Dana does not fixate upon the mechanism by which her body has ruptured science as we know it. Rather, after establishing the causal relationship between Rufus’s life and her travels, as well as the blood relationship between Rufus and herself, Dana accepts the time travel as an inevitability. In her sojourns in 1976, she becomes obsessed with the past, her ability to survive in the past, and the imminent threat of returning to the past- she reads every slave narrative she can get her hands onto, teaches herself how to follow the north star to freedom, and literally ties herself to an anchor of survival necessities to keep her healthy, both mentally and physically, in her stays in the past. By bringing the past into the forefront of Dana’s consciousness even when her body is in the present, Butler speaks to the need for us to not only acknowledge but actively engage the narratives offered by the past in order to effectively confront the present.