The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America.


As I’ve read the numerous reviews about Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad, I’ve been struck by a word many of them use – “adventure”.

To me, the word “adventure” conjures up an image of a journey, a quest for something, a continuous battle against something, and a never-give-up attitude. All of these hold true for Whitehead’s runaway slave protagonist, Cora. I also consider an adventure story to include hope, a light at the end of a tunnel. In Cora’s story, there are several literal lights at the end of literal tunnels, but as far as hope goes, that light is very dim. In the end, I guess even a small glimmer of hope is better than none at all. In the end, a hope of survival is all Cora might be able to muster. The hope of a world without the evils she encounters could be too much to ask.

The relationship between Cora and slave catcher, Ridgeway, proves intriguing. While there is no doubt about the mutual hatred between the two, a hatred that would have either of them killing the other given the opportunity, their conversations betray an odd and bizarre sense of respect. Whitehead makes each of them worthy adversaries in a sinister game that puts survival above morals and politics.

Then there’s the snakebite – the unforeseen answer to a small nagging side question that I couldn’t get out of my mind while reading the story. This book is a true marvel.




2 responses to “The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

  1. FYI- I think Whitehead is coming to Butler University for the upcoming school year’s literary calendar. I’ll try to remember to pass on more info if I hear about it.

    • Cool! I had not read any of his other novels but I enjoyed the way he put this story together and how he had some very interesting characters and relationships.

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