Summary of Kindred by Octavia Butler
The narrator, Dana, wakes in a hospital to find her arm amputated. Police question her, trying to get her to admit that her husband, Kevin, is responsible for her injury. Through the haze of pain killers, Dana insists that Kevin did not hurt her; in fact, she wants to see him. She later awakens to find him beside her, released from jail.
She asks him what he told the police about her accident. He says he told the truth: he woke up to her screams and discovered that her arm was “crushed” inside a wall in their house. Neither Dana nor Kevin knows exactly how her arm came to be pinned inside the wall.
Although the Prologue introduces the mystery of Dana’s injuries, it also introduces the idea of violence in modern times, particularly violence against a black woman. The police automatically assume that her case is one of domestic violence—after all, such violence is common. They are ready to punish the man who did this to her.
Domestic violence (i.e., violence against members of one’s household) will become a major theme throughout Kindred. The Prologue introduces the idea that such violence is punishable, but Dana soon discovers that, in another time, violence is not only allowed, but it is the victim who is most often blamed for that violence.