The Fight, Parts 13–16
Summary: The Fight, Part 13
When Dana awakes, she is bleeding and riding along on the back of Rufus’s horse. He stops, wipes her face, and unties her after she promises not to struggle. He puts her in front of him on the horse. He tells her to lean on him before she falls off, and she does. As they approach the house, Rufus tells her she will be whipped. Once off the horse, Dana resists, terrified, scratching and bruising Rufus, Weylin, and Edwards. Weylin ties her up, strips off her clothes, and beats her senseless. Dana tries to time travel by telling herself that her life is in danger, but in her heart she knows that Weylin is punishing her, not killing her. Rufus asks Carrie and Alice to care for Dana. Dana wonders whether she will find the strength to run away again. She realizes that despite her superior education, she managed to escape only for a few hours, while Alice escaped for days.
Summary: The Fight, Part 14
It turns out that Liza, the cleaning woman, was the one who told Weylin about Dana’s attempt to escape. She did it because she hates Alice, and Dana saved Alice’s life. The other slaves beat Liza badly to punish her for betraying Dana.
Summary: The Fight, Part 15
Rufus shows Dana a letter Kevin sent to Weylin. In it, Kevin says he is coming, and asks Weylin to convey the news to Dana. Rufus says his father wrote to Kevin when he found out that Rufus had not sent Dana’s letters. Weylin felt bound to do so because of Rufus’s promise to Dana. Dana tells Rufus that she already knew he didn’t mail the letters. He says he didn’t mail them because he doesn’t want Kevin to come and take her North. Dana reflects that Rufus loves her because she cares about him. She wonders why she does not hate him, as Alice does, and why she keeps forgiving him. Despite her fondness for Rufus, she thinks she would kill him if he tried to rape her.
Rufus says Weylin is the only man he knows who keeps promises faithfully to both blacks and whites. Dana advises him to emulate that quality.
Summary: The Fight, Part 16
One day when Weylin and Rufus are in town, Edwards orders Dana to do the wash. This is usually the job of Tess, who was Weylin’s bedmate until he tired of her and passed her on to Edwards. But today, Tess will be sent out to the fields. Dana knows that doing the wash will hurt her back, but she complies when Edwards threatens to whip her. Alice offers to help. Just then, Kevin rides up. He is furious to hear about the whipping Weylin gave her, and he wants revenge. Dana convinces him they should leave. She turns to say goodbye to Alice, but Alice refuses to acknowledge her. On the road, Dana and Kevin run into Rufus. When they won’t agree to stay, he turns a gun on them. Dana provokes him until he is on the brink of shooting her. At the last moment, Kevin falls on Dana.
Analysis: The Fight, Parts 13–16
Tom Weylin is not a completely evil person. Many men in his position would have thought nothing of breaking a promise to Dana—particularly a promise made by someone else. But Weylin does not care to whom Rufus gave his word. What matters is that Rufus’s word, once given, is kept. Weylin knows that when Kevin returns, he is likely to take Dana away with him. Keeping Rufus’s word, then, means indirectly helping Dana flee, the very act for which Weylin whipped her. Keeping Rufus’s word also means losing a hard worker. Despite these outcomes, which are undesirable for Weylin, Weylin writes to Kevin. His motives are not pure. He certainly does not care about Dana’s happiness, and he may write partly from a conviction that he should help Kevin locate a woman he considers Kevin’s property. And Weylin is by no means a good man. He punishes slaves severely and brutally, and he has sex with whichever women he pleases, discarding them when he is sated. Yet despite his numerous shortcomings, in this section he comes across as a more honorable man than Rufus.
Alice functions as a mirror for Dana, and Butler creates notable similarities between them. Alice is Dana’s ancestor, and the two women look alike. Both earn Liza’s enmity. Both are loved by Rufus. Both control him to some extent but must submit to his will more often than not. Both are involved with white men, Dana by choice and Alice by necessity. Both are born free and become slaves on the Weylin plantation. But because they were born generations apart, the differences between the two women are just as prominent as the similarities. Alice has been shaped by her time period, just as Dana has been shaped by hers. Alice has been deprived of an education and basic human rights; Dana has been educated and allowed to control her own life. While Alice has a natural fighting spirit, the brutality of her life has broken her down. More than a mirror for Dana, she is like a funhouse mirror, a reflection of the depressed, embittered woman Dana would be had she been warped by a lifetime of struggling in antebellum Maryland. Yet the longer Dana stays in the past, the more closely she comes to resemble Alice. After her failed attempt to escape, she, too, loses much of her rebellious spirit. And as time goes by, her origins in the 1970s stop mattering as much to Rufus, and she begins to lose her sway over him.
While Rufus’s treatment of Dana continues to worsen, he still affords her some measure of respect. There are several reasons for this. When Rufus and Dana first met, he was a child and she was an adult, and some vestige of his boyish regard for her authority lingers. She is the sole person in his life who tells it like it is, chastising him when he behaves badly and trying to mold his character. In many ways, she is a better mother to him than Margaret Weylin is. Also, Rufus knows that Dana is sent back in time to save his life. He appreciates what she has done for him in the past and likely worries that she will stop saving him in the future if he alienates her. Although Dana’s increasingly lengthy stays in Maryland make her a familiar figure to Rufus, her ability to time travel still gives her an aura of otherworldliness that inspires respect. Most of all, Rufus loves Dana. At least some of his most dreadful behavior is inspired by that love. He threatens to kill her, for example, because he is so panicked at the thought of losing her. Butler does not suggest that Rufus’s passionate attachment to Dana excuses his bad behavior; she merely suggests that it explains it.
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