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The Underground Railroad: 04/17/20
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is at first glance, historical fiction about slavery during the running of the underground railroad. Cora, a slave on a plantation in Georgia decides to escape via the railroad after it is described to her by Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia.
Instead of the railroad being a metaphor for a series of connected safe houses along a route northward to the free states and ultimately Canada, Colson Whitehead imagines a literal underground railroad with cars that take riders not only to different cities but to different times.
Cora's journey takes her forward in time through other atrocities freed Blacks would live through in the decades leading up to the Civil War.
Cora's journey is also mapped on the road narrative spectrum. If her story were to start with her as an adult, her entire character would be framed against her marginalization as a slave. Instead, though, her origin story is given, including how she is orphaned and how that experience changes her. She is, therefore, an orphan traveler (FF).
Her destination, while ultimately freedom, is done through the bounds of time (CC). She is traveling through uhoria on her way. While she is unaware, for the most part, of her temporal travels, the reader will be.
Her route, is a literal railroad. Like Suzy in The Train to Impossible Places, Cora's trains travel in impossible ways. They time travel and their routes seem to appear when they are needed. Their tunnels also seem able to change on a whim, in ways reminiscent of those in Nagspeak.