Dana is unable to choose when she is sent to the past but Kevin has control over his travels. What significance does this have in the novel?


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Time Travel

The motif of time travel gives structure to each section of Kindred. Episodes open with Dana’s travels backward in time to 1800s Maryland and close with her travels forward in time to 1970s California. Butler does not linger over the fantastical aspects of time travel, or its mechanics. Instead of exploring exactly how Dana’s temporal leaps work, Butler focuses on the results of those leaps. Indeed, as the novel progresses, the otherworldly nature of time travel ceases to be surprising. For us and for Dana, time travel becomes expected, even ordinary. This shift reflects how shockingly easy it is for modern-day people to accept slavery. Just as Dana quickly gets used to the initially bewildering sensation of time travel, she quickly gets used to the initially unthinkable institution of slavery. Butler also stresses Dana’s inability to control her travels. Just as Dana cannot control her fate in Maryland, she cannot control the frequency or duration of her journeys back in time.


My understanding is that Kevin's travels are hinged upon Dana's, that he can only move in time by holding tight and traveling along with her. Therefore, Kevin would be able to pick and choose, whereas Dana has no control.