Here you will find a Kindred summary (Octavia E. Butler's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
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On a sunny day in 1976, Dana, a young African-American woman, celebrates her 26th birthday with her Caucasian husband, Kevin, in their new Southern California apartment. Suddenly, she finds herself transported back to the early 1800s in Maryland, saving a young white boy named Rufus from drowning in a river. She's threatened by Rufus's father, Tom, but quickly returns to her own time. She again travels back in time, a few years ahead, saving Rufus from a fire he started out of anger. She encounters the Greenwoods, free Black people and potential ancestors, and experiences the harsh reality of the time when white men assault the family and attempt to assault her before she's whisked back to her own time. During her next trip to the past, Kevin accompanies her, and together they tend to a severely injured Rufus. Their stay extends for weeks, during which they educate Rufus. However, Dana's punishment for teaching a slave to read sends her back to her own time, leaving Kevin behind. When she returns, she finds that Kevin has moved and Rufus has assaulted Alice from the Greenwood family. She helps Rufus recover from a beating by Alice's husband and helps Alice and Isaac escape, although they're caught and enslaved. Dana stays for two months, enduring harsh treatment and forced to convince Alice to sleep with Rufus. An attempted escape only results in punishment until Kevin arrives and they manage to return to their own time. Despite short-lived respite, Dana is once again transported back to find a drunk and ill Rufus. She tends to him amidst hostile conditions, with Rufus blaming her for his father's death and subjecting her to exhausting labor. Alice, who has had a second child with Rufus, expresses her desire to escape, fearing her growing complacency towards Rufus. Dana, however, is forced to stay and care for Rufus's sick mother. She attempts to intervene when Rufus sells off slaves, leading to her own punishment. In desperation, she self-harms to return to her own time. Upon her final return to the past, she learns that Alice has committed suicide after being deceived into believing her children were sold. A grief-stricken Rufus nearly ends his own life and becomes possessive of Dana. When he attempts to assault her, Dana kills him in self-defense, immediately returning home with a lasting physical reminder — a crushed arm — of her harrowing experiences.
Dana, the narrator, cryptically shares that her latest journey resulted in the loss of her arm, peace of mind, and roughly a year of her existence. Her husband, Kevin, discovered her in extreme distress, trying to disengage her arm from a seemingly wall-embedded hole. Following a medical intervention, her arm was cut off above the elbow. The authorities held Kevin responsible and arrested him, suspecting him of causing Dana's harm. Despite Dana's insistence that she was at fault and it was an accident, the police were sceptical. However, in the absence of witnesses, they were forced to let Kevin go. Dana admits she withheld the full truth due to the police's likely disbelief. Post his release, Kevin visits Dana, both puzzled by the mysterious events that transpired.
On Dana's twenty-sixth birthday, June 9, 1976, she and her newlywed husband Kevin are settling into their suburban home. While unpacking, Kevin, a writer, confesses to Dana that he's struggling with writing. Suddenly, Dana experiences a strong bout of dizziness and the surroundings, including Kevin, vanish. She finds herself in a woodland area. Spotting a young boy, Rufus, drowning in a nearby river, she dashes to rescue him, pulling him ashore and reviving him. Amidst the chaos, the boy's frantic mother assaults Dana, while a man - presumably the boy's father - arrives and threatens Dana with a gun. The next moment, Dana is back in their apartment, gripped with fear. Kevin is startled and confused, questioning the sudden disappearance and reappearance of Dana in a different part of the room, all within a few seconds. As she recounts her ordeal, Dana recalls additional features like the pine trees and the woman's Southern accent and peculiar attire. Although they discuss the possibility of a hallucination or dream, Dana feels convinces it was real. The thought of returning to that scene and facing the hostile man with a gun terrifies her. Kevin attempts to reassure her, arguing that the man should be grateful to her for saving his son. Dana, however, remains doubtful.
Dana is apprehensive about exiting the apartment on her birthday, even though Kevin has plans for a celebratory dinner. While the two of them are partaking in a meal in the kitchen, Dana experiences a bout of vertigo and suddenly finds herself transported elsewhere.
Dana awakens in a room with a red-headed boy, Rufus, who is playing with fire. She extinguishes the flames and learns that Rufus recalls almost dying in an incident a few years back. He remembers seeing Dana in her apartment at that time. He had mistaken her for a man because she was dressed in pants. Rufus reveals that his mother dismissed Dana as a peculiar "n*****." Dana finds the racial term offensive and requests Rufus to address her as a Black woman. Rufus confesses that he started the fire out of frustration from a beating by his father. He reveals painful marks on his back, some fresh, others old scars. He informs Dana that they are in Maryland, in the year 1815. Rufus discloses his last name as Weylin and mentions his Black friend, Alice Greenwood, who is free. Upon hearing this, Dana realizes that Rufus is her forefather. Rufus assures Dana of her safety at Alice's home and assists her to leave his house covertly while also helping her dispose of the burnt curtains.
Dana navigates her way across the countryside, staying low to circumvent a group of young white horsemen. She tails them to a secluded cabin, where she witnesses them assaulting a black man and hauling him away. They also insult and physically abuse his wife, who's standing outside with their little girl. After their departure, Dana calls the name "Alice," which catches the attention of the young girl.
Dana assists Alice's mom to regain consciousness and assures her that she's a free woman seeking help. Alice's mom reveals that her injured husband is enslaved by Tom Weylin, Rufus's dad. Dana, aware that mentioning California could cause confusion in 1815 as it was a Spanish colony, decides to say she hails from New York and her spouse is there. When Dana steps out to recover the blanket, she comes across a returning patrolman. The patrolman mistakes Dana for Alice's mom's twin, pursues her into the forest, brutally assaults her, and tears off her garments, planning to rape her. Dana strikes him with a branch and falls unconscious.
Dana finds herself back in her own house with Kevin present. She opts to keep her recent experiences to herself until she has had some sleep.
Prepared for another unexpected leap through time, Kevin equips Dana with a bag filled with essentials like clothing, a blade, and footwear, all secured to her body with a cord. They review her latest venture into history, strategizing ways she could protect herself if she's pulled back again. They study maps and learn about freedom papers and permissions, instruments that could keep Dana out of harm's way. Kevin hypothesizes that Dana is drawn back to the present when her life is in imminent danger. Yet, Dana's growing concern is her ability to weather further involuntary excursions to the past.
Dana recounts her initial encounter with Kevin. She was a nocturnal writer who took on low-skilled tasks from a "slave market" agency to maintain her livelihood. It was during her stint at a car spare parts repository that she bumped into Kevin. Despite being a full-time worker there, Kevin had just made a successful sale of his novel and discovered Dana's writing pursuits. Observing that Dana could not afford her lunch, he kindly sponsored her meal. They found common ground discussing their shared experiences of relatives lacking understanding. Their interracial relationship drew light-hearted mockery from a co-worker. The shared meals became a routine, which led Kevin to invite Dana to a theatre play.
Dana's vision blurs and Kevin supports her, unintentionally journeying back to the past with her. They find Rufus injured from a fall from a tree, accompanied by a young Black boy, Nigel. Dana sends Nigel to fetch help. Upon questioning Kevin's identity, Rufus is taken aback when he learns that Kevin is Dana's spouse. When Rufus resorts to his racial slur for Dana, she promptly corrects him. They inform Rufus of their 1976 Californian origins, which he dismisses in disbelief. They briefly discuss upcoming historical events and present coins bearing their timeline’s date, which convinces Rufus of their truth, albeit in confusion. Dana secures a promise from Rufus to keep their secret, revealing their truth only to Nigel. She also convinces Rufus to play along with the ruse that Kevin is her master.
Tom Weylin, Rufus's dad, shows up to retrieve his son, grumbling about the impending medical costs. He has a private discussion with Kevin, and Rufus pleads with his father to let Kevin and Dana accompany them. Weylin consents and invites them to his house. On inquiry, Dana reveals that they hail from New York. Weylin's accompanying slave, presumably Nigel's dad, cautions Dana about Weylin's severity and his son's similar character. Upon arrival, Rufus's mother, Margaret Weylin, anxiously greets her son, showing hostility towards Dana. Despite Rufus's protests, Margaret banishes Dana to the cookhouse for supper. There, Dana encounters Sarah's mute daughter, Carrie. Sarah has a deep dislike for Margaret. A man named Luke interrogates Dana about her background while they have a cornmeal mush meal. Nigel wonders why Dana speaks like a white person, and she explains her mother was a teacher. The slaves doubt her story and warn her that Weylin already dislikes her educated manner of speaking and her free-state roots. They express Weylin's concern that Dana might inspire the slaves to desire freedom.
Carrie gives Dana some food, which Dana appreciates despite hygiene concerns. Sarah informs Dana that her husband has passed away and Carrie is the only child not sold by Weylin. Dana is surprised that Sarah hasn't tried to poison Mr. Weylin. Kevin arrives to speak to Dana. Dana shares her concern about potentially leaving him in the past if she becomes dizzy when he's not near. She also privately worries that Kevin could be influenced by his forced role as a white slave owner. Kevin informs Dana that Rufus's leg has been treated by a doctor and that Weylin has employed him to tutor Rufus during recovery. He has told Weylin that he's a writer from New York who purchased Dana for her education. He also hinted at a romantic relationship with Dana. Kevin warns Dana that Weylin is jealous of her education. Dana and Kevin hope to stop Rufus from becoming like his father.
Dana is hounded by Margaret who even goes as far as to throw hot coffee at her, as she helps with the housework. Kevin urges Dana to leave the Weylins but she resists, hoping to create positive memories for Rufus in case she ever has to return alone. The idea of intentionally putting herself in danger to trigger a return home is proposed by Kevin, but Dana wants to wait until Rufus's leg is healed. Upon his insistence, she starts sleeping in Kevin's room because Margaret has been pursuing him. They have also noticed that some of the slave children bear a resemblance to Weylin. Rufus calls Dana to visit him and reveals his sympathy for Sarah when his father sold her children. He asks Dana to read him Robinson Crusoe, which she does. He confides that the books belong to his father’s first wife, Miss Hannah, and that his father sold Alice’s father to a southern trader, while Alice and her mother remain nearby. Dana contemplates whether the patroller she attacked is dead. Rufus informs her that he told his mother that Dana saved him from the river. As she leaves, Weylin questions her about her skills and proposes to buy her from Kevin to educate Rufus. Dana tells him that although she is fond of Rufus, she prefers to stay with Kevin. Weylin warns her that she'll regret her decision.
Weylin imposes a harsh punishment on a defiant slave, making Dana and the rest of the enslaved people watch the brutal whipping. Margaret confronts Dana about her sleeping arrangements, striking her when she confesses to sharing a room with Kevin. Dana, mindful of the punishment she witnessed, holds her tongue and doesn’t retaliate. Sarah, in the kitchen, shares her own resentment towards Margaret, revealing that she was responsible for the sale of her children. Sarah warns Dana about Margaret's ambition to take Kevin for herself, and her subsequent animosity towards Dana for possessing him. She suggests Dana return to the attic to sleep amongst the other slaves and urges her to lobby for her freedom while she is still attractive enough to sway Kevin.
Dana keeps spending her nights with Kevin. She encounters Weylin one morning on her way out of the bedroom, and his wink makes her feel like she's being degraded. Weylin catches her reading in the library and warns her not to touch books unless she's reading to Rufus. Nigel, a thirteen-year-old slave, urges Dana to teach him to read, aware of the risks involved. To emphasize this, he reveals his back, scarred from lashings. One day, Dana and Kevin witness young kids play-acting slave auctions. Dana is appalled, but Kevin dismisses it as harmless play. He doesn't think the plantation is as cruel as he had thought. Dana counters, saying the absence of physical violence doesn't mean there's no brutality, disturbed by their growing acceptance of slavery.
Dana persistently reads to Rufus, and his mother, Margaret, frequently interrupts. Rufus grows impatient, reminding Dana of Weylin's temperament. Meanwhile, Dana discovers Nigel tutoring Carrie in the cookhouse. Dana offers to help educate Carrie, but they must keep it a secret from Sarah to avoid punishment. Just as Dana is about to dispose of a spelling test Nigel had just taken, Weylin barges in. Upon discovering Dana's reading, he is infuriated and lashes out at her with a whip. Overwhelmed, Dana nearly loses consciousness before Kevin reaches her.
Dana elaborates on her bond with Kevin. Although he proposed financial support to allow Dana to leave her job, she chose to continue working. The couple often argued over Kevin's insistence that Dana transcribe his tales—a task she despised. Their decision to wed was met with opposition from both families. Kevin's sibling, previously close with a Black peer, had immersed herself in the discriminatory beliefs of her much older, racist spouse, a dentist. She threatened to ostracize the couple if they proceeded with the wedding. Similarly, Dana's uncle, who was a paternal figure in her life, was saddened by her choice to wed a Caucasian man. The duo ended up tying the knot in Las Vegas. Upon their return, Dana received confirmation from the Atlantic Monthly about the acceptance of her story submission.
Dana wakes in her contemporary home, alone and suffering from her previous ordeal. Despite her agonizing pain, she manages to clean herself and prepare a bag of essentials for a potential return to the past. The juxtaposition of past and present leaves her unsettled. The two months she experienced in Maryland contrast starkly with the less than a day that has passed in her own time. Out of fear, she doesn't venture outside and requests her cousin to deliver groceries. As time progresses, she immerses herself in every book she can find on slavery. She is unsettled by the romanticized depiction of slavery in Gone with the Wind, finding a book about WWII concentration camps more relatable.
A week following Dana's return to the year 1976, she abruptly finds herself back in the slavery era South. She comes across Rufus, now a young adult, in a heated altercation with a Black man revealed to be Alice's husband and slave, Isaac Jackson. Rufus has sexually violated Alice. Dana speculates if Alice is expecting Rufus's daughter, Hagar, who is also Dana's ancestor. As Isaac renders Rufus unconscious, Dana steps in to dissuade him from killing Rufus, reasoning the consequences that would befall him and Alice. Despite his suspicion of Dana, Isaac heeds her advice, fleeing with Alice. Alice, recognizing Dana, mentions that Kevin has traveled somewhere northward.
Dana desires to create a window of escape for Isaac and Alice. Upon regaining consciousness, Rufus threatens to seek revenge on Isaac. Dana, however, persuades him against it. Rufus admits he would have considered marrying Alice if they were living in Dana's era, leading Dana to realize he has feelings for Alice, in spite of his violent actions towards her. Rufus consents to fabricate a story, blaming his beating on white men. Subsequently, Dana departs to seek assistance at the Weylin residence. Before her exit, Rufus reassures her that Weylin is likely fearful and confused due to her mysterious disappearances.
At the Weylins' estate, Dana comes across Jake, the new overseer, and Carrie, who is expecting Nigel’s baby. Nigel, Dana, and Weylin set off in a cart searching for Rufus. Weylin appears frustrated with his son and questions Dana's identity, without pushing for a response. When Dana inquires about Kevin, Weylin calls him a "damn fool", and reveals that Kevin had visited the plantation searching for Dana about a year after leaving for the North. Weylin allows Dana to remain on the property under the condition that she works, noting that she seems naturally suited to looking after Rufus.
Sarah informs Dana of Margaret's departure to Baltimore. Amidst Rufus's fever, Dana administers aspirin from her bag. Nigel conveys Weylin's orders for Dana to remain overnight with Rufus due to the doctor's unavailability. He also reveals Rufus's plan to officiate his marriage to Carrie through a preacher, a concept Dana doubts due to the illegality of slave marriages. Nigel discloses his and Weylin's understanding of Dana's time traveling abilities, and she confirms Isaac's assault on Rufus. The next day, over breakfast, Dana and Rufus delve into a discussion about Weylin. Despite Rufus's insistence on his father's fair treatment, Dana perceives Weylin as a regular man conforming to the societal norms of his era, rather than a monster. For the first time, Rufus expresses curiosity about Dana's unchanged appearance despite the years, to which she explains the time disparity between her journeys back home and his life. Rufus shares a few letters from Kevin and agrees to forward a letter from Dana to Kevin. Dana encounters the doctor who insults her, leading her to the cookhouse. Here, Sarah reveals Margaret's delivery of twins who didn't survive infancy. Rufus later imparts that Luke was sold due to his white-acting tendencies, cautioning Dana against a similar fate. He also shares the tale of Nigel's failed escape attempt which resulted in his whipping and retrieval. When Rufus discovers a 1976 book on slavery Dana had brought, she fears the potential repercussions on significant figures in African-American history if the book is mishandled. Despite her hesitation, she succumbs to Rufus's insistence on burning the book to prevent his father's discovery. Her idea of using a map from the book to escape is dismissed by Rufus who asserts that the book and map are inconsequential because she is already home.
Alice and Isaac are recaptured five days post their flight, resulting in Alice being enslaved due to her assistance in Isaac's escape. Before Rufus departs to procure Alice, he requests Dana to provide aspirin for her. With Margaret absent, Sarah assumes the role of household overseer, expressing to Dana that remaining at the Weylins’ is a more favorable choice than risking a brutal return after a failed escape. Upon Rufus’s return, Alice is brought back in a horrific state. Weylin refuses to finance a doctor for any slave, compelling Dana to attend to Alice at Rufus's appeal. Dana suggests using salt water for treatment, alarming Rufus who fears it may harm Alice. However, Dana reveals her own healed wounds, demonstrating the effectiveness of soap and brine.
Alice's wounds are revealed to be mainly from dog bites. Rufus discloses to Dana that he has forwarded her letter to Kevin and that Isaac was sold to a trader bound for Mississippi. Dana hears from Sarah that the slave traders mutilated Isaac's ears, which angers her. Rufus's possession of Alice, whom he violated, infuriates Dana. Sarah voices her concern about Dana's outspokenness landing her in trouble. She alerts Dana that Alice will assume her position in Rufus's bedroom. However, Dana asserts that her relationship with Rufus isn't sexual and mentions that she is married to Kevin. Sarah recounts the abuse she endured from her white partner and father of her elder children. She advises Dana to confirm with Nigel if Rufus has indeed posted the letter to Kevin.
Nigel isn't certain if Rufus sent the letter. Rufus became a laughingstock for buying Alice, who was near-death, for a hefty sum. Despite his desire to escape again, Nigel grudgingly appreciates Rufus for preventing his sale to the South. Dana tends to Alice, who is disoriented and unable to control her bodily functions. Dana fears Rufus might sexually assault Alice once more, but he compares it to harming a baby. Eventually, Alice starts recognizing her surroundings and inquires about her history.
Dana and Alice replace Sarah in the kitchen as she assists Carrie in childbirth. Alice queries Dana about her status as a slave. Dana cautions Alice before revealing that she was enslaved for aiding a slave's escape. Alice recalls Isaac, expressing her deep desire to reach him. Dana, however, discourages her, considering her current weak condition. Tess, who recently became Weylin's mistress, arrives to request dinner. Dana discloses to Alice that Rufus concealed the truth about Isaac assaulting him, which infuriates Alice and leads to her mistreating Dana. Meanwhile, the sound of Carrie's newborn can be heard.
Weylin gifts newborn clothes to Nigel for his infant son, Jude. Dana accidentally overhears Weylin's conversation with Rufus, remarking his regret to purchase Alice, intending to discipline her harshly to yield to his demands. Dana makes a request to Rufus to pen another letter to Kevin, to which Rufus counters by insisting Dana to persuade Alice to share his bed. Dana is skeptical and fears Rufus might force Alice against her will. Rufus taunts Dana about Kevin, implying he might prefer to be with "his own kind." Rufus reveals his father's suggestion that he should sleep with Dana instead, a notion which deeply disgusts Rufus. Dana converses with Alice, who criticizes Dana, implying she's becoming a 'mammy'. She advises Dana to proposition Rufus herself, rather than pushing him towards Alice. Alice questions Dana if she would ever sleep with Rufus, to which Dana responds with a firm "no". Alice threatens to escape if compelled to go to Rufus. However, when Dana promises to delay Rufus, providing Alice with a head start, Alice collapses in tears, resigning to the fact she will surrender to Rufus's demands.
Primarily, Rufus treats Alice decently, but he does physically abuse her during a drunken episode. Dana contemplates escaping but is paralyzed by fear. One evening, Alice reveals to Dana that Rufus didn't send the letters she had written to Kevin. This revelation prompts Dana to flee that very night. The Weylin family soon starts a search for her. Rufus discovers her hidden in the bushes, and Weylin violently strikes her in the face, causing her to pass out.
Regaining consciousness, Dana finds herself injured on Rufus's horse. Once she swears not to resist, Rufus frees her, positions her in front of him and instructs her to rest against him to avoid falling. As they near the house, he informs her that a whipping awaits. After dismounting, Dana fights back in fear, injuring Rufus, Weylin, and Edwards in the process. Weylin then binds her, removes her clothes, and brutally beats her. Although Dana tries to invoke her time travel ability by convincing herself her life is at stake, she knows deep down that Weylin is disciplining her, not murdering her. Afterwards, Rufus requests Alice and Carrie to look after Dana. Dana questions her ability to escape once more. She acknowledges that despite her advanced education, her previous escape attempt only lasted a few hours whereas Alice managed to stay hidden for days.
The discovery is made that the individual who revealed Dana's escape plan to Weylin was Liza, a housemaid. Her motivation was her resentment towards Alice, who Dana had previously rescued. As retribution for her disloyalty to Dana, the other slaves subjected Liza to a brutal beating.
Rufus presents Dana with a letter from Kevin that was sent to Weylin. The letter reveals that Kevin is on his way and hopes Weylin can pass this message onto Dana. Rufus discloses that his father, upon discovering that Rufus had not forwarded Dana’s letters, felt compelled to write to Kevin due to Rufus’s broken promise to Dana. Knowing this, Dana confesses to Rufus that she was aware of his failure to send the letters. Rufus confesses he withheld the letters out of fear that Kevin would return and take Dana away. Dana realizes she's loved by Rufus because she shows him care. She ponders why she doesn't despise him, unlike Alice, and why she constantly forgives him. Despite her affection, she acknowledges that she could resort to violence if he were to attempt to violate her. Rufus admires his father's unwavering dedication to uphold promises made to both Black and white people, a trait Dana urges Rufus to adopt.
During a day when Weylin and Rufus are away, Edwards commands Dana to handle the laundry, a task normally done by Tess. Tess was previously Weylin’s mistress before he lost interest and handed her over to Edwards, but today she's reassigned to field work. Dana, realizing this task will strain her back, still agrees to do it under threat of a whipping from Edwards. Alice steps in to assist her. Suddenly, Kevin appears, incensed upon learning about the beating Dana received from Weylin, and thirsts for retaliation. Dana persuades him that they need to escape. As she attempts to bid Alice farewell, Alice coldly ignores her. On their way, Dana and Kevin encounter Rufus. He pulls a gun on them when they refuse to stay. Dana taunts him until he's on the verge of shooting her. In the nick of time, Kevin throws himself onto Dana.
Upon returning to 1976, Dana and Kevin become intimate. Kevin appears disoriented and confesses to Dana that he felt most comfortable at the Weylin plantation, which Dana reluctantly admits to feeling as well. Kevin's new accent recalls memories of Rufus for Dana, and their home slightly echoes the Weylins'. Kevin grew a beard as a form of camouflage because he was being pursued by an angry mob for assisting slaves to flee. He struggles to recall how to operate the TV and typewriter, feeling increasingly frustrated and expressing this frustration towards Dana. Dana begins to feel faint, prompting Kevin to rush towards her bag.
Dana finds herself alone at the Weylin residence. Rufus, inebriated, is facedown in a puddle. Swiftly, Dana flips him over and brings Nigel onboard to take Rufus inside. Weylin, feeble and elderly, informs her that her continued efforts to keep Rufus alive guarantees her stay. Dana retaliates, threatening to cease protecting Rufus should Weylin harm her again. Weylin, livid, directs her to tend to Rufus, threatening her with severe punishment should anything happen to Rufus. Dana is certain he's serious.
Rufus is shaking violently, and Nigel identifies the symptoms as ague, or malaria. Dana instructs Nigel to encircle Rufus with mosquito netting, explaining that the bugs are carriers of the illness. However, when Rufus complains of pain in his eyes, head, and leg, Dana discerns that he does not have malaria. Upon Weylin's arrival, Dana urges him to fetch a doctor, but he declines. He believes that Dana, regardless of her being a witch or a devil, can save Rufus. Weylin emphasizes that Dana, capable of feeling pain, will suffer should Rufus pass away.
Rufus falls ill and Dana is there to nurse him back to health, administering aspirin and ensuring he eats. She discovers that Alice bore Rufus three children since her last visit, but tragically, only the youngest, Joe, survives. Dana is troubled upon learning that her forebear, Hagar, is yet to be born. The plantation's other slaves harbor ill feelings towards Alice, believing she willingly shares Rufus's company. Once Rufus recovers, Weylin suffers a heart attack. Despite Dana's best efforts, she is unable to save him, leading to Rufus accusing her of deliberate negligence.
Nigel and Carrie are parents to three boys, a sight that brings Nigel sorrow as they are born into bondage. Alice shares with Dana that her first two children became sick and were bled by a doctor due to Rufus's insistence, resulting in their deaths. Dana, punished by Rufus for failing to save his father, is forced into field labor. The new overseer, Evan Fowler, commands her to increase her corn cutting pace while inflicting whippings across her body. As the day drags on, Dana battles with the physical pain from her labor and Fowler's whippings. Eventually, she loses consciousness.
Dana regains consciousness to find Rufus looming over her. She freshens up and tends to her injuries at the house. She heads to Rufus's chamber seeking Excedrin. Rufus, however, demands she stays, threatening her with a return to fieldwork if she disobeys. She acquiesces. Rufus becomes softer, acknowledging her attempt to rescue his father. He mentions his mother's imminent return - she is reliant on laudanum, and he wishes Dana to look after her. Dana pleads with him to rethink. He promises to mull it over. As she exits, Rufus permits her to spend the remainder of the day reading or doing as she pleases. Dana grasps that he would be taken aback if she didn't absolve him each time he hurt her.
Margaret makes a comeback, imposing numerous tasks on Dana such as reading to her, tidying her room, doing her laundry, and making her sleep on the floor. Margaret's previous volatile nature is absent, possibly due to her opium dependency. One day, three Weylin slaves, including Tess, are chained and removed to be sold. Attempting to communicate with Tess, Dana is intercepted by Rufus and brought to the library. Rufus divulges that his deceased father had set up the slave sale and claims ownership of the slaves. This leaves Dana deeply saddened.
Dana crosses paths with Carrie, who escorts her to Carrie's dwelling. Dana regrets ensuring Rufus's survival. Carrie communicates through movements, implying that without Dana's intervention, everyone would have been dispersed via an estate sale. Gently touching Dana's face, Carrie assures her, the blackness of her skin "doesn’t come off," irrespective of others' opinions.
Rufus enlists Dana's help in penning letters to those he owes money to. In her original era, Dana managed to steer clear of clerical jobs, a fact that amuses Rufus as Kevin had revealed her career as an author. Rufus provides her with paper for her own use, asserting his wish to avoid selling any further slaves. The financial burdens left by his father weight heavily on him, and he is hopeful that Dana's eloquent words may prevent the need for further slave sales.
During an evening meal in Alice's cabin, a drunken Rufus stumbles in, remarking that they are "only one woman" before departing. Alice questions Dana, asking if Rufus has ever been intimate with her, to which Dana denies. Alice comprehends Rufus's implications - he desires Alice for physical intimacy and Dana for intellectual stimulation, an observation bolstered by their similar appearances.
The slaves enjoy a corn husking party provided by Rufus, complete with good food and liquor. Sam, a strong slave, remarks it's unfortunate Dana is unavailable. By Christmas, another party ensues. Rufus intriguingly asks Dana if she's interested in anyone, hinting he'd sell any slave she wished to marry, reminding her of Kevin's absence. Alice later persuades Rufus to let Dana tutor their son, Joe, in reading. Rufus starts showing interest in his bright son upon Dana's insistence. Alice wants Rufus to free their son and in exchange, she'll give him her affection. She suspects Rufus desires her to be more like Dana. Alice confides in Dana about her distrust in Rufus and her plan to escape after giving birth to her child. She requests Dana to sneak some opium from Margaret to keep the baby silent.
Sam requests Dana to instruct his younger siblings in reading. She promises to do so only if Rufus consents. Rufus starts sharing rumors other enslaved people are spreading about her, but she defends herself, stating her actions are for survival, like theirs. Rufus subtly flirts with her before leaving. After three days, Sam is sold by Rufus, prompting Sam's sister to insult Dana. Desperate, Dana tries to persuade Rufus to change his decision but he reacts violently. Ignoring his command to return to the house, she fetches warm water from the cookhouse. Following this, Dana retreats to the attic and makes an attempt on her life by cutting her wrists.
Dana communicates to Kevin about Carrie's revelation, that the slaves would be sold upon Rufus's death. Kevin finds himself taken aback by Carrie's intelligence, having previously considered her intellectually challenged. He suggests that Dana's course of action is clear-cut. When Dana questions his expectation of her, he remains silent. Frustrated, Dana insists on knowing how she could perform an action that he himself can't even articulate. The underlying suggestion is that Kevin wants Dana to end Rufus's life.
Dana returns to 1976 for a fortnight plus one day and reunites with Kevin, a moment of joy for both. However, Kevin suspects Dana of desiring to return to Maryland and questions her about potential sexual assault by Rufus. Dana clarifies that while she is prepared to act like she is owned, she will never submit to being owned. She further insists on Rufus respecting her boundaries, even within her restricted freedom. Kevin trusts her despite his lack of comprehension. Dana confesses her fear that, should Rufus perish, she may lose her route back home.
Dana reappears at the Weylin's estate on Independence Day. Rufus appears tired but hasn't aged much. He takes her to the barn where she discovers Alice's lifeless body hanging by a rope. She cuts down the body and Rufus informs her that Alice took her own life. Sarah reveals to Dana that Alice had tried to escape, which led Rufus to claim he 'sold' Alice's children Joe and Hagar, driving her into a distraught state. When Dana confronts Rufus about Alice’s death, she finds him gripping a handgun. He confesses he didn't actually sell the children but sent them to his aunt in Baltimore to scare Alice into staying with him. Dana holds him responsible for Alice's death and urges him to at least set Joe and Hagar free as a small act of redemption.
Following Alice's burial, Rufus releases his offspring to the public, with Joe now referring to him as "Daddy". Dana suggests Rufus release his entire slave ownership in his will, yet he fears she may murder him if he complies. Rufus admits to suffering from nightmares about Dana abandoning him to die alone, but she refuses to reassure him otherwise. He then confesses to selling Sam due to his desire for Dana, a statement that frightens her. When Rufus aggressively grabs her, Dana flees to the attic and retrieves her knife. Rufus unexpectedly apologizes to Dana, questioning aloud how long her hatred for him will persist. As he lies beside her, she momentarily contemplates the possibility of entering a romantic relationship with him, but ultimately determines she cannot be his lover. She ends up stabbing him, attracting Nigel's attention with Rufus's screams. When Rufus touches Dana's arm and goes slack, she is transported back to her own time, her arm merged with the wall where Rufus had grabbed it.
Once Dana recovers, she and Kevin return to present-day Maryland, only to find that the Weylin house has disappeared. They come across a news piece that reports the Weylin property and slaves were sold following Rufus's death in a fire. Dana surmises that the fire was likely started by Nigel to conceal her killing of Rufus. Despite their efforts, Kevin and Dana are unable to trace what became of Hagar and Joe. Dana is aware, though, that Hagar survived long enough to gain freedom through the constitutional amendment. The fate of Nigel and Carrie remains unrecorded.