Monday, March 13, 2017

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead: Week Two #12mos12rals

Welcome to another week of discussion for THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD!  Today, we are here to discuss the next three chapters/sections of the book, including SOUTH CAROLINA, STEVENS, and NORTH CAROLINA.  Please read on for specific questions to address, but I encourage you to take your own route if you so desire.


  • Cora's life changed drastically after getting on the underground railroad.  In addition to getting used to her new name of Bessie, what other changes did she have to get used to?  What do you believe would be the hardest change to become accustomed to?
  • "Stolen bodies working stolen land."  Comment.
  • Dr. Bertram shares the truth of the hospital's work with the black population, and Sam passes on the information/warning to Cora and Caesar.  While reading this, my mind flashed to the biography THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.  What similarities do you see between the medical stories?

  • A new character is introduced: Stevens, a medical student and body snatcher. What are your impressions of this man? 
  • What is the meaning of the following quote in your own words? "And if you could make a study of the dead, Steven's thought from time to time, you could make a study of the living, and make them testify as no cadaver could."

  • Martin's father left him a treasure when he died.  "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad.  Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all, but it was not what Martin expected."  What do you imagine was Martin's initial reaction to discovering this treasure?  Comment on freedom as currency, and the underground railroad as treasure.
  • Cora did not see Ethel beyond the first night she arrived.  That is, until Cora became ill and Ethel became her caregiver.  Cora imagined a motherly kiss while she was in the midst of fever.  Do you think the kiss was real or imagined?  Why or why not?
  • What are your thoughts at the conclusion of this chapter?  Do you feel any hope for Cora?  How about Martin and Ethel?


Tell me what you are thinking of the story so far, whether you answer the specific questions or not!  I am excited to chat more about this book!  

Next week, we will be back on Monday to chat about the next three sections:  ETHEL, TENNESSEE, and CAESAR.  This is a shorter week of reading, so if you are behind in reading it's a great time to catch-up.  See you all back again next week.

1 comment :

  1. I cannot even begin to imagine what Cora had to go through, changing her story and her name. I think it would be so hard to always remember to answer to a different name, and not slip up in some way or another.

    "Stolen bodies working stolen lands." Wow! I found this quote to be so overwhelming and powerful. I cannot even properly explain, but I will say that I had to read it again and again.

    I am really confused right now about where Stevens fits into this story. He seems a bit random, though he does provide some interesting little details to build the story. Still curious if he will return to the story as we continue to read.

    Can you imagine receiving the gift of the underground railroad from your own father? The first thing that I found interesting was that Martin had no idea even how his father felt on this topic. For him to inherit the stop in the railroad line must have been confusing and overwhelming, yet maybe a bit redeeming and proud all at the same time.

    Ethel, on the other hand, had no idea that she married into this life and at this point, we really do not know her background that can contribute to it. (I think we discover this in the next chapter.) I want to believe that Ethel warmed to Cora and did give her that motherly good night kiss. Though the ending of this chapter completely breaks my heart. I am certain that Martin and Ethel will not survive this, and I am not currently holding out a lot of hope for Cora. Thankfully, we have a lot of the book yet to read, so maybe there is hope coming. I sure hope there is!


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