Trauma In Octavia Butler's Kindred

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One traumatic moment. One horrifying event. That is all it takes to alter a life. Trauma is when the mind’s coping mechanism becomes too overwhelmed by shocking events, to be able to process anything else (Walker 317). In Kindred, by Octavia Butler, the female, Black, protagonist, Dana, undergoes a series of traumatic events as she travels back in time to the 1800s – a period of slavery in America. As an African America, Dana is forced into the life of a slave, suffering through various hardships and numerous close encounters with death. All of these experiences have a significant effect on Dana’s mental stability, as she becomes more and more distant and distressed. However, her fellow characters are unable to fully realize Dana’s state of…show more content…
Anhedonia is the lack of ability to experience positive effects in situations that should yield positive effects (Frewen 1). This state is measured using different scales such as the Hedonic Deficit and Interference Scale (HDIS), the Physical and Social Anhedonia Scale (PSAS), the Fawcett-Clark Pleasure Capacity Scale (FCPCS), and the Snaith-Hamilton Pleasure Scale (SHAPS). These scales measure positive and negative affective responses to different situations (Frewen 2). In Dana’s instance, there is never a real measure of her affective responses to events, so her mental instability and trauma are not easily recognized by the other characters in the novel. However, along with the scales mentioned, there are other indications of trauma. Some symptoms include less interest in previously enjoyed activities, “reduced ability to feel emotions…less intimacy, tenderness, and sexuality,” and emotional numbing (Frewen 1). Some of these symptoms can be seen through Dana as her ability to feel emotions declines as she suffers more trauma as a slave. She becomes less intimate with Kevin, and undergoes a sort of emotional numbing as she becomes accustomed to the horrible events such as whippings and slave markets that occurred in the 1800s (Butler 44-45). The issues with Dana’s mentality should be very obvious, however, the other characters don’t necessarily see this change as a problem. For example, Kevin just thinks that Dana needs some alone time, but then after some time they can have sex and everything will be fine. Similarly, Rufus doesn’t ever take in to account Dana’s emotions, so the beatings and slave trade which are normalized in the 1800s are not normal for Dana, but Rufus ignores her feelings and does what he wants in order to keep power over her (Butler 214). Both Kevin and Rufus simply think that Dana is not used to the situation or is
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