Kindred is a fiction novel written by Octavia Butler. The book takes the readers back to the slave period as it talks about the antebellum period and slavery in the South. The story follows a protagonist who has to endure the tortures of slavery because she was present in a time where the black people were just slaves and could never be anything else. Dana mysteriously finds herself in the Antebellum South, and she has to struggle and confront slavery by acquiring modern day basic woman skills. Moreover, the protagonist has to determine whether she has the strength to stand or rather survive the harsh realities of slavery where all the black women are just considered as slaves and objects to the slave owners.
On the other hand, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is also a fiction novel written by Junot Diaz. The story is about a dictator who oppressed women in the society because he viewed them as sex objects and objects of fun. The Dominican dictator Trujillo uses his power and authority to abuse women in the society because they are considered as inferior and objects of pleasure. The men in the story feel powerful over women, and they use their masculine power to dominate their sexuality.
Despite the two stories being significantly different in the subject matter, and in focus, both Octavia and Diaz’s stories present women in similar and different ways and the social pressures they have to endure. The books open up the abuse women have to go through in the society where men have power, but in the end, they overcome the great hurdles in their lifetimes and pave a better future for their generations to come.
In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, there is the presence of Dominican masculinity where men dominate over women. In fact, in the story, all the villains are men who use their charm, power, and violence to dominate over women. Oscar details how the male dictators like Trujillo and their abuses they have heaped on the women living throughout history. Trujillo is one male character who is always forceful with women, and he is the ultimate embodiment of the great ideals of machismo in the story. He is an evil man in the story, and he uses his position to humiliate, and torture those who oppose him. Trujillo’s domination and mistreatment of women is evident in his pursuit and interest in Jacqueline, Abelard’s daughter.
Trujillo is depicted as a hyper-masculine character that uses his power to pursue women even without their consent. This is evident when Yunior the narrator describes his pursuit and violence when he says, “Dude had hundreds of spies whose entire job was to scour the provinces for his next piece of ass” (Diaz 217). The dictator used his power and violence in search of women in the land, and he used them and discarded them as objects.
Apart from Trujillo, Oscar takes advantage of his gender as a male to dominate over women and to control them sexually. Even though it is argued that he focuses on the positive aspects of women because he is not forceful on them like Trujillo, one thing that is evident is that his obsession with several women proves that he is using his power as a man to dominate over women. Oscar slept around with and cheated on several women including those who cared about him. Moreover, the men around him also viewed women as objects, and this is evident when the narrator says since they were Dominicans they believed that they were “supposed to be pulling in the bitches with both hands” (Díaz 2). The men in the story used women and tossed them aside just like objects because they viewed them as sex objects.
Even though masculinity is the main theme of the story, as it ends, the women are able to overcome the hurdles and oppressions in the society and pave a better future for their future generations. The women hold up all the hardships and unthinkable situations they face throughout their story, which proves the strength of a woman who fights for a better future for the coming generation as feminists.
Just like Trujillo the in Life of Oscar Wao, in Kindred, there is Rufus who abuses women because of his status in the society. The protagonist Dana has to struggle with all the social pressures as a woman to save the future existence of her family. She is depicted as an independent and a strong woman who faced the horrors of living as a slave woman. Despite her enslavement by Rufus, Dana struggles against all the social pressures of slavery to maintain her identity and to be able to save the coming generation of black women. Dana was always abused by Rufus, and despite all the oppression, she repeatedly saves his life (Butler24).
As a black woman, Dana is enslaved and abused by a cruel white man, but she had to endure the social pressures because she was just a woman in the society. She was abused, whipped, threatened, and enslaved, but she faced the inhumane situations with dignity because of her sense of compassion for the other slaves who were treated worse than she was. This is evident when she says, “I thought Weylin meant to kill me. I thought I would die on the ground there with a mouth full of dirt and blood and a white man cursing and lecturing as he beat me” (Butler 54). She feared that she was going to die from being whipped by her white slave master. Dana and her fellow women slaves were treated as properties, and they had to endure this treatment to survive the social pressures during the antebellum period in the South.
Apart from Dana, there is Alice who has to struggle with the social pressures of the society as a black woman under the abuse of Rufus. Alice was enslaved and raped continuously by Rufus because of her status in the society. Rufus is depicted as a power drunk and inconsistent character who uses violence and coercion to get what he wants. Therefore, as a slave owner, Rufus used his status in the society to mistreat black women who were his slaves. He raped Alice several times forcing her to bear him children because she was just a black slave woman who could do nothing to the master who had enslaved her. Hence, Alice is an example of how women were treated in Kindred and how they had to endure the social pressures to survive. In fact, she ended up committing suicide because she could not bear the abuse and oppression she received from her master.
The women in Kindred suffered in the hands of their owners for a very long time, for instance, Dana and Alice under Rufus. However, through the protagonist, the lives of women in the society changed because she fought against the evils and oppressions of women in the society. Dana is an example of black women who were oppressed in the society because of their color, but ultimately, she was able to resist the gender and racial oppression.
Both Octavia and Diaz highlight the themes of oppression and power to show how women were treated in the society in their books. In Kindred, the power struggle is between the slaves and the plantation owners who use black slave women like Alice and Dana as objects and property because they see them as insignificant. The women in the story are abused and oppressed by their owners, and they can do nothing much because they do not have the power over white plantation owners because they are slaves. Rufus oppressed both Dana and Alice, and he used violence, threats, and power to reach out to these women because of his position and authority in the society as a white plantation owner. Rufus was a male, white slave owner with power and he used it to oppress the black women and demand for anything he wanted from them. Octavia presents characters that had to endure the brutality of slavery because they had the least power in the society to fight against the oppression because they were black women.
Comparably, in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the women in the story suffer under the rule of a dictator who uses his power to abuse them. In the novel, most of the characters are men who try to dominate women with their masculinity and power because they view women as inferior and as sex objects. Trujillo uses his power and masculinity to abuse women. The men have insatiable sex drives, and they use their masculine nature to oppress women, however, as the story ends, the women endured and fought against the male dominated society and their oppression. In essence, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Kindred present stories of women and how they have to face social pressures in a male-dominated society.
Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. New York: the Penguin Group, 2007. Print.
Butler, Octavia. Kindred. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979. Print.