Double Consciousness Through Time Travel


Often times, when people think of science fiction, they think of stories about aliens invading earth or robots taking over. Often times, these different story lines are creative reflections which embed the underlying fears of society. Many of these fears include, our over  dependence on technology, or the new ways we interact with one another through social media. However, most people  probably do not think about  W.E.B. Du Bois’ theory on double consciousness. While this may not be an urgent  subject to some,  double consciousness is becoming more and more relevant because of the exponential globalization seen in our world today. As a result, movies and stories will echo Du Bois’ theory.One example is Octavia Butler’s Science fiction novel, Kindred. Butler was able to portray W.E.B. Du Bios’ theory of double consciousness by using the concept of time travel.

In Octavia Butler’s novel, Kindred, the main character is named Dana. Dana is a modern 20th century  African American women who married a white man named Kevin Franklin. Dana and Franklin are in the midst of transitioning to their new home. Suddenly, Dana begins to feel dizzy and blacks-out. When Dana recovers consciousness, she finds herself in Maryland and discovers she has time traveled to the 1800’s. When she travels back in time she has to face some of the situations that other African Americans had to live through as slaves. During this time, she was able to witness the cruelties of slavery. To Dana this is a big transition. Dana is a modern 20th century African American  women who has never experienced slavery, and is now forced to take on a new identity as a black slave living in the 1800’s.

Butler uses time travel to highlight Dana’s internal conflict and her double consciousness. Dana, as a 20th century African American women, constructed her identity and her thoughts on slavery according to a modern ideology. However, it was not until Dana experienced slavery that she was truly able to understand more in depth what it meant to be a black slave. Moreover, Butler uses Dana to exemplify the psychological complexity that many multicultural or biracial individuals deal with. In many ways, this makes the novel, Kindred, a very important novel. This novel has allowed us to use a popular genre to bring awareness to these heavy topics (Slavery and Double Consciousness) in a way where all audiences can learn, while still enjoying an entertaining science fiction novel.






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