The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Underground Railroad, explores the brutality of the United States’ history of slavery through the story of a runaway slave, Cora. Growing up on a Georgia plantation, Cora is left alone in the world when her mother flees the misery and violence that characterises life as a slave. Eventually, with fellow-slave Caesar, Cora makes her own escape on an underground rail network that has been established to take runaways to potential freedom in the northern states.


What follows is a tense chase through the southern states of the US as Cora is pursued by slave-catcher Ridgeway. The novel creates a palpable sense of tension as Cora, though free from her shackles, must be constantly on guard and wary about who she can trust. Whitehead deftly plays with the narrative’s temporality, jumping backwards and forwards in time to great effect, and knowing exactly when to reveal certain plot details to maximise their power. The Underground Railroad brings a wholly new element to that great symbol of freedom in American literaturethe railroad.




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