The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 1:59pm -- JGranatino

Cora, a third generation slave on a plantation in pre-Civil War Georgia, is an outcast even among the other slaves. Her mother ran away without her when she was 10 and her father died before she was born. Consequently, when she finally resolves to run away with Caesar to the north and out of slavery, Cora’s life changes forever. There have been numerous books written about the Underground Railroad and the horrors of slavery over the years. While many of these titles are an integral part of our literary and cultural history, Whitehead’s 2016 novel breaks out of the mold: incorporating elements of sci-fi/fantasy into this work of historical fiction, he describes the journey of Cora’s escape. Each stop along the way is a different world, North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, and Cora is confronted with spare shards of hope and often brutal violence as she makes her way to freedom, exploring all the while what the meaning of that word. In short chapters, and through the various perspectives of different characters that come in contact with Cora, Whitehead illustrates the many ways the blood of slavery has seeped into the foundations of the nation. Near the end of the narrative, a character asserts that “America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all.” 

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