Chapter Four, “The Fight,” pp. 108-188 Part 11, pp. 160-168
Weylin presents new parents Nigel and Carrie with clothes and a blanket because, as Nigel privately tells Dana, “‘he’s one nigger richer,’” now that their child, Jude, has been born into slavery on the plantation.
Dana approaches Rufus about writing another letter to Kevin. It has been a month, and she has not heard back from Kevin. Rufus tries to put her off, however. She tries to approach him the next day, but he cleverly turns the conversation against her. He wants her to convince Alice to come to him willingly. To get Dana to help him, he does everything he can to remind her that she is under his control. He first tells her that Weylin thinks Rufus should forget Alice and take Dana as his mistress. When that does not scare her, he tries to make her feel vulnerable by telling her that he thinks Kevin has moved on, has destroyed her letter and taken up with a woman “‘of his own kind.’” Dana tells him that “‘nothing you say to me is going to ease your way with Alice.’” Rufus then tells her that if she will not help, she will have to watch while Jake Edwards beats Alice into submission.
Dana refuses to let Rufus cow her, and this makes Rufus even angrier. He says that perhaps he has made a mistake by being so easy on her. She, in turn, says that perhaps she has made a mistake in keeping him alive. Finally, Rufus wins his point: it is up to Dana to save Alice from a beating by persuading her to be Rufus’s mistress.
Dana reluctantly approaches Alice, who has become the plantation’s seamstress. Alice has made Dana a dress, and Alice urges Dana to write Kevin in secret. Alice’s kindness ends, however, when Dana relays Rufus’s message. She rails at Dana for being the white peoples’ go-between and tells Dana that she should be Rufus’s mistress since she has already been with one white man, Kevin. Just as suddenly, Alice apologizes to Dana and confesses that she is afraid not to obey Rufus. But, she also confesses, she secretly wants to kill him.
In a way, Alice’s and Dana’s situations mirror one another—both are loved by white men—yet time has distorted that mirror. Being loved by a white man in Alice’s time is slavery, while being loved by a white man in Dana’s time is equality. The fact that Dana’s very existence is dependent upon a white man essentially raping her ancestor, Alice, brings this discrepancy to the forefront for Dana. She realizes more than ever that her black ancestors went through a lot of pain so that she might exist. That pain is not just words in a history book for Dana; that pain is living, breathing flesh standing before her in Alice’s form.
Part 12, pp. 168-174
Alice finally submits to Rufus. Dana still hears nothing from Kevin, and Rufus lets her write him again, since she got Alice to come to him. Dana hates that Rufus has found a way to control her, by threatening other slaves if she does not comply.
One day, Alice shows Dana two letters—her letters to Kevin—which have never been mailed. She found them in Rufus’s room. Dana is so upset that she plans to run away and find Kevin herself. She tries to sneak out of the attic after she believes everyone is asleep, but Rufus and Weylin are alerted by Liza, the slave woman who holds a grudge against Alice and Dana. When Rufus and Weylin find her, Dana tries to fight Rufus off and Weylin kicks her in the face until she is unconscious.
Part 13, pp. 174-178
Dana awakens to find herself bleeding, tied up, and thrown across the back of Rufus’s horse. Rufus acts tenderly toward her, wiping her bloody face, speaking pleasantly. But then he reminds her that she will be whipped for trying to run away. Dana grows hysterical. “What I acted like was a wild woman,” she says. “If I’d had my knife, I would surely have killed someone. As it was, I managed to leave scratches and bruises on Rufus, his father, and Edwards who was called over to help. I was totally beyond reasoning. I had never in my life wanted so desperately to kill another human being.”
Dana is taken to the barn, stripped naked, and beaten by Weylin. During the beating, Dana hopes she will time travel because her life is in danger, but it does not work. Weylin knows just how much to beat a slave without actually killing that slave. After the beating, Alice and Carrie nurse Dana. Dana feels like an utter failure. Despite her knowledge and education, despite being from the future, she cannot escape. She realizes that she wants more than ever to escape, and that she is afraid more than ever of escaping. She is, to her chagrin, truly sinking into the slave mentality, accepting her position out of fear. “See how easily slaves are made?” she tells herself.
Dana’s struggle when she is captured by Rufus and beaten by Weylin is quite a different struggle from the one she made when the patroller, earlier in the novel, tried to rape her. Then, Dana was still Dana, a modern woman, a free woman, a woman who believed in fighting for freedom. She did not believe in violence, and she almost did not stand up for herself against the patroller. Now, however, Dana is not Dana the modern woman anymore, but Dana the slave woman. Nothing is muted anymore by time and distance. Rufus’s world is vivid, and brutal. Such a world calls for vivid and brutal responses from Dana. She would kill for freedom now, but in turn she might be killed seeking it. This second beating is a turning point for Dana, who must fully acknowledge now that she is losing her grip on her modern beliefs and being pulled into Rufus’s world completely.
Part 14, p. 178
Dana finds out that Alice, Tess, and Carrie have had revenge on Liza for foiling Dana’s escape. They have made sure Liza had a fall down the stairs, and that she will not cross Alice or Dana again.
Part 15, pp. 179-181
Dana discovers from Rufus that Tom Weylin wrote to Kevin to tell him Dana was again at the plantation. He had found out that Rufus had lied to Dana and never mailed her letters, and he wants to make sure Rufus keeps his word about contacting Kevin. Kevin writes to say he is on his way. When Dana accuses Rufus of lying about mailing her letters, he admits that he wanted to keep her with him. Dana realizes that Rufus loves her, and like his love for Alice, that selfish love will hurt her. In a way, she forgives him because his love for her is based on such pitiful need; he needs someone to talk to and care for him. And, she reminds herself, he is her ancestor. Her number one priority is to see that he lives and has children with Alice, even if she must watch Alice suffer.
Somehow, Rufus smoothes over his relationship with Dana without apologizing for lying to her about the letters and for having her whipped.
Part 16, pp. 181-188
Dana returns to doing light chores. Jake Edwards, however, orders her to do the washing instead of Tess, whom he is taking to work in the fields. Dana protests that only Rufus can order her around, but Edwards threatens to whip her, and Dana acquiesces because she is afraid of another beating. “Slavery,” she realizes, “was a long slow process of dulling.”
Finally, Kevin arrives. He is upset that Dana has again taken a whipping, and he decides to take her away right then. Rufus, however, meets them on the road. When they refuse to turn back, he aims a rifle at them and forces them back to the house. Dana, however, is tired of Rufus turning on her despite her efforts to save his life. When she sees that Rufus is really going to shoot her, she realizes that she is about to time travel again. She screams for Kevin, and just in time, he touches her; they go home together.
Dana’s one last tie to the modern world, Kevin, cannot protect her now. The fact that he is white, and that he and Dana are legally married, cannot stop Rufus from doing what he wants to Dana. All along, Dana has been tried to make sense of Rufus’s world, to find logic in it, but Rufus’s selfishness is beyond logic. It is a dangerous sickness, just one example of the overall cultural sickness that allowed slavery to exist in the first place.
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