Study Questions for "The Rope" & " Epilogue"

"The Rope"

  1. How does the title of this chapter function? That is, how many ways does the concept of "rope" function in this chapter. See Alice in the barn (245).
  2. How do you characterize the interaction between Dana and Kevin in parts 1 & 2 of "The Rope"? What is it that Kevin most wants to know about Dana's most recent experience in the antebellum South? What does Kevin mean when he says, "I had to know" (246)?
  3. Now that Hagar has been born, why is Dana reluctant to allow Rufus to die, or to kill him herself?
  4. How does Rufus's explanation that he wanted to punish Alice because she tried to leave him (251) resonate with other interactions between Dana and Rufus, while justifying Kevin's expressed fears about what Rufus might do to Dana? See 187 (bottom), 245, and 255.
  5. How does Rufus's "You really are one woman" comment (228) prepare us for his altered desire for Dana once Alice is dead? See his comments on 256 and 257, especially "You and her. One Woman. Two halves of a whole" (257).
  6. How do Dana's final interactions with Rufus reveal her ambiguous relationship to him and feelings for him? See her sincere smile (254) after she hears Joe call Rufus "Daddy," and recall how she felt that she liked Rufus in "The Fire" (32) as well as in other passages throughout the novel. Especially consider how Rufus's words expressing his lonelines "touched" Dana "as no others could have" (258) and her realization that it would have been easy "to be still and forgive him even this" when he tries to rape her (260).
  7. What exactly causes Dana's arm to be trapped in the wall upon her final return to 1976 and how does this event function symbolically? What might Butler want us to understand about the relation of the past to the present through Dana's lost arm?

"Epilogue"

  1. Recall Dana's final meeting with Margaret Weylin, when they talked casually and laughed together (253) and consider Dana's speculation about Margaret and Hagar and Joe in the "Epilogue." Do these scenes in any way redeem Margaret for you? What might be implied by Butler's providing the possibility that Margaret saved Hagar and Joe from being sold?
  2. To what extent has Dana's intervention in the past been successful? What are the costs of her intervention, her killing of Rufus, and what might Butler be saying through her representation of those costs?
  3. Have Dana and Kevin finally come to a comfortable understanding, to mutual agreement about their experiences?