The Underground Railroad Book Summary

Categories: Book Review

I read a book called, “ The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead. It’s a very interesting book. I enjoyed it a lot. Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad was awarded the National Book award for fiction. It's about a teenaged slave whose name is Cora. Cora escapes captivity. Let’s start off about the characters first. Cora, the main character, was born on Randall plantation in Georgia. Cora is very brave. Her mother's name is Mabel and her father's name is Grayson.

Grayson died before she was born so she never knew who he was. Ajarry, Cora’s grandmother was born in Africa. She was kidnapped. They brought Ajarry to America. The narrator says Cora gets her strength to go through obstacles from Ajarry and her stubbornness from Mabel. Lovey is an enslaved woman. She lives in Randall. Lovey is very kind. Caesar is an enslaved man. He lives in Randall as well. Then there's Terrance Randall. Ugh. Terrance is one of the two Randall brothers and they each control Randall plantation.

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He is barbarous while his brother, James, enjoys torturing and sexually abusing the enslaved people. Old Randall is the father of the two disgusting boys. He was much more popular in the white community than his sons. There's a young boy named Chester and he lives in Randall as well. Cora likes him because he is an orphan. Terrance forced the enslaved population to dance and Chester accidentally knocked over Terraces wine on his shirt. Because of that, Chester and Cora got brutally whipped.

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Cora got whipped because she defended Chester. When this happened, Chester stopped speaking to Cora. Some more characters are Arnold Ridgeway, the son of a blacksmith. He grows up to be a slave catcher. Sam is a station agent. In South Carolina, he owns a saloon. He is very dedicated to his work for the underground railroad. He helps Cora and Caesar to get new identities. Miss Lucy is a proctor in South Carolina. Cora came to like her until she discovered something about her. Miss Lucy claims to be so helpful in supporting black people. However, Miss Lucy gets way too happy and listens to the state laws that says she must tell any black people that are runaways. Dr. Stevens is a doctor and he examines Cora. He was a medical student in Boston. He was involved with stealing corpses for research. I find that really odd. There’s so many characters in this story. Martin Wells is a station agent as well just like Sam. Martin was anti-slavery. Ethel Wells is Martin’s wife and the mother of their daughter. Fiona is a young irish woman who is working as a servant. Martin and Ethel hired her. Fiona snitches and says her employers are hiding Cora in the attic. Homer is a young black boy and is a part of Ridgeway’s gang. Boseman is an accomplice of Ridgeway’s. He is unintelligent and naive. John Valentine and owns a farm and is the husband of Gloria. He passes as white even though he is light- skinned. Gloria Valentine is the wife of John and he secretly purchased her freedom before they were married. Gloria is a mother of five children. Elijah Lander is a great man. He believes in freedom. He is a biracial man who travels the country giving political speeches. Royal is a black man who was freeborn and he rescues Cora from Ridgeway. He has a good personality and is very dedicated with helping others with freedom for himself and his people. He is attractive too. Connelly is the white person on Randall plantation. He is so selfish and really mean. He takes the enslaved women as his mistresses. He is really just gross. These are all the most important characters however there are some minor characters I won’t get into.

Now you know everyone. Let’s get into how the story is. The Underground Railroad covers Cora’s life and the events it took place and her journey. It first starts off in Georgia. When her mother Mabel ran away, Cora became untouchable beside the slaves in the plantation. Other slaves try taking away Cora’s land but she defends it with all she has. It’s the land she inherited from her mother which her mother inherited from her grandmother, Ajarry. There was a young boy named Chester that was beaten as I stated and Cora intervened and got beaten. A slave named Caesar notices Cora’s personality and her independence and builds up the courage to ask her to run away with him. Of course Cora refuses at first. A few weeks later, she accepted the offer to run away. They both run away in the middle of the night. A young girl named Lovey joins them. They got caught by a group of white hunters. The young girl, Lovey, got captured. In order to escape, Cora had to kill a white boy. Cora and Caesar reach the house of Mr. Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher is helping them with the underground railroad. Fletcher drives them in his cart heading to the station agent named Lumbly. Beneath Lumbly’s house, they find a tunnel with a railroad track and they then head north.

Then comes life in South Carolina. Cora’s life is just an adventure. It isn’t the good kind either. I just could not imagine how it would be at that time. I don’t think I would have the capacity to make it.Once they make it in South Carolina, they both meet a station agent named Sam. Cora and Caesar had to get fake identities otherwise they wouldn’t be safe living there. They had to wait in South Carolina until a train comes to take them up north. Cora enjoys living in South Carolina so much that she didn't want to leave. So Caesar and her let all the trains go past. Cora finally gets a job and works as a maid. She lives in a dorm with other black women. Cora’s doctor tells her she should get medically sterilized. Cora then realizes something just horrible. Some of the women she is living with are sterilized without wanting to do so. It’s all part of a plan to reduce the amount of black people. Ridgeway is a very known slave catcher. Ridgeway has been searching for them. Ridgeway finds out where Cora was staying at. Cora goes to find Caesar but has no luck. She then goes to Sam for help and he tells her to hide under his house. Days after, Cora is saved by a train passing by. The person driving the train drops her off in North Carolina. She meets Martin and he helps to hide her although he knows the consequences of keeping a runaway slave. She stays there for months. Cora gets very scared because on Friday’s she sees outside of the attic window and sees the runaway slaves getting executed. Martin gives his maid a week off to take care of Cora. His maid name is Fiona.

Fiona is a messed up person and tells them that Cora is there. Cora is then captured and she sees Martin and his wife dying because they were keeping her in a hideout. It’s so sad that they were just trying to help her and that happens. Ridgeway was the one who captured Cora. They stop at a town and Cora and this black man see each other. His name is Royal. Ridgeway and Boseman start fighting because Ridgeway caught Boseman wanting to do something horrific to Cora. While they are fighting, Royal and his friends help to save Cora. They took Ridgeway’s and Boseman’s weapons and shot Boseman. He chained Ridgeway to his wagon. They help save Cora and all go to an underground railroad going to Indiana. They make it there and are on a farm called Valentine farm. Cora falls in love. She fell in love with Royal. White people then go to the farm they were living in along with other runaway slaves and kill Royal and many others. In the very last chapter, Cora is found by Ridgeway and Homer. They force her to show them where the station is near Valentine Farm. She took him there and pushed Ridgeway down and left him wounded. Cora gets on the train car and a few days later she sees traveling wagons. She is offered a ride from a black man named Ollie in one of the wagons. She accepts the offer and on they go. This was such an interesting novel and it got me up my feet every time. I am very glad I read this. I think the author wrote this story to show how it was back then and the troubles slaves endured back then.

Updated: Jan 24, 2024
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The Underground Railroad Book Summary. (2024, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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