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Thread: ETS Book Club Book: Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad"

  1. #151
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    The freakiest thing, to me, is the irony in that whole search for Mabel. Cora's anger at Mabel for abandoning her, being sad that Mabel could leave her so easily; Randall being pissed and humiliated that Mabel had not been found; Ridgeway being pissed that he hadn't found Mabel and his career was affected.

    And, here, SHE DROWNED IN THE FUCKING SWAMP after being bit by a poisonous cottonmouth snake UPON TRYING TO RETURN TO RANDALL'S FARM TO GO BACK TO HER BABY, CORA.
    i think this speaks to a sort of misplaced anger and cycle of violence that is touched on, and the "slave mentality."

    Ajarry threatens her children to get them to obey the masters for instance.
    And there is a fuckload more on this-i will be back soon.
    Last edited by elevenism; 01-03-2017 at 04:22 PM.

  2. #152
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    True, but isn't it possible that Cora never considered this because all she knows is misery upon misery?
    Not being cared for and such?
    I think it might be hinting that this sort of thing works its way down through the generations, this feeling of being mistreated that was started by slavery.

    Those who are mistreated mistreat others, and this creates like a mental slavery. The chains may be gone, but the psychological scars go on and on, even NOW.

  3. #153
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    No, I don't think it occurred to Cora because Cora was still a hurt child abandoned by her mother. She ached for her mother, her mother didn't say goodbye.

    Cora SEARCHED FOR her mother on NUMEROUS occasions after she escaped, asking around for Mabel and risking outing herself as the escaped Cora from Randall's farm.

    She missed her mother, she wanted to find her.

    This is the mother-daughter connection. The same mother-daughter connection that got Mabel to turn around to return to her daughter, Cora. Had Mabel continued through that black water, she wouldn't have been bitten by that snake and died. She died trying to return to her daughter, Cora.

    Think of this as like O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" irony.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 04:52 PM.

  4. #154
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Certainly, the "bad blood" experiments performed in South Carolina is a reference to THE TUSKEGEE STUDY and the enforced birth control is a reference to what many people (especially black people) believe were the origins of PLANNED PARENTHOOD.

    And that whole "Plan" in South Carolina was to eliminate negroes via disease and birth control, while North Carolina's plan was to just kill them all in a Hitler-esque Final Solution.

    You can't have Capitalism without Racism. (Malcolm X)

    The cotton used in the North and the South was produced by free labor (slaves). Now, Capitalism still relies on a top-down system wherein the people at the very bottom are still, to this day, most often minorities.
    I felt like the bad blood experiments were talking about sickle cell disease. pg 82:
    A group of men, some of whom she recognized from socials and afternoons on the green, filled the adjacent room while they waited for their blood treatments. She hadn’t heard of blood trouble before arriving in South Carolina, but it afflicted a great number of the men in the dormitories and was the source of tremendous effort on the part of the town doctors. The specialists had their own section it seemed, the patients disappearing down a long hall when their name was called.
    Granted it could go either way. But what little I know about SCD is that it affects blacks (Google says African descent, so not just blacks?), especially black males. So I went with a slightly more altruistic reason for the blood tests.

    And I didn't feel the birth control was altogether coming from a bad place, just that a lot of the "medicine" all boils down to "We know what's good for you" and this is no better than on a plantation where you don't have a say in your well-being, the others do. The doctors were trying to help, in a backwards 1800 kind of way. Again, maybe a little too altruistic but I was looking for the good in the people in South Carolina.

    Especially compared to North Carolina, holy cow.

  5. #155
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegate View Post
    I felt like the bad blood experiments were talking about sickle cell disease. pg 82:Granted it could go either way. But what little I know about SCD is that it affects blacks (Google says African descent, so not just blacks?), especially black males. So I went with a slightly more altruistic reason for the blood tests.
    This is from Page 121:

    “Whatever you do, man, keep out of Red’s Café, if you have a taste for nigger gals.” Several of his male patients frequented the saloon, carrying on with the female patrons. His patients believed they were being treated for blood ailments. The tonics the hospital administered, however, were merely sugar water. In fact, the niggers were participants in a study of the latent and tertiary stages of syphilis.

    “They think you’re helping them?” Sam asked the doctor. He kept his voice neutral, even as his face got hot. “It’s important research,” Bertram informed him. “Discover how a disease spreads, the trajectory of infection, and we approach a cure.” Red’s was the only colored saloon in the town proper; the proprietor got a break on the rent for a watchful eye. The syphilis program was one of many studies and experiments under way at the colored wing of the hospital.
    Also, from Pages 116-117:

    Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood. With the surgeries that Dr. Stevens described, Cora thought, the whites had begun stealing futures in earnest. Cut you open and rip them out, dripping. Because that’s what you do when you take away someone’s babies— steal their future. Torture them as much as you can when they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.
    Page 123:

    Cora thought back to the night she and Caesar decided to stay, the screaming woman who wandered into the green when the social came to an end. “They’re taking away my babies.” The woman wasn’t lamenting an old plantation injustice but a crime perpetrated here in South Carolina. The doctors were stealing her babies from her, not her former masters.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 07:11 PM.

  6. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by elevenism View Post
    True, but isn't it possible that Cora never considered this because all she knows is misery upon misery?
    Not being cared for and such?
    I think it might be hinting that this sort of thing works its way down through the generations, this feeling of being mistreated that was started by slavery.

    Those who are mistreated mistreat others, and this creates like a mental slavery. The chains may be gone, but the psychological scars go on and on, even NOW.
    I mean, we're kind of getting into the weeds (no pun intended) here but maybe the reason she never thought about her mom being dead is twofold:

    A) She managed to escape when everyone says it can't be done. Isn't it easier to say she escaped to hold out hope for your own attempt? Better that than ->
    B) She didn't escape, she's dead, and the crushing despair that brings to a slave. You're either going to die as an old slave or be tortured to death as a young slave. That said, either of these are better than ->
    C) She wanted freedom more than she wanted her daughter. That would also be pretty crushing, to not be wanted. This is touched specifically in the book and she's pretty angry about it.

    And I agree with the generations of mistreatment - That's probably where you get the idea of reparations from.

  7. #157
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    This is from Page 121:



    Also, from Pages 116-117:
    Totally forgot about that saloon! It's been a week since I read that part and the holidays were a blur so all I remembered was my initial reading of the situations. I need to go through SC again, I guess.

    from pg 89, re the forced birth control:
    Cora thought back to the night she and Caesar decided to stay, the screaming woman who wandered into the green when the social came to an end. “They’re taking away my babies.” The woman wasn’t lamenting an old plantation injustice but a crime perpetrated here in South Carolina. The doctors were stealing her babies from her, not her former masters.
    Should have skimmed it again.

  8. #158
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegate View Post
    Totally forgot about that saloon! It's been a week since I read that part and the holidays were a blur so all I remembered was my initial reading of the situations. I need to go through SC again, I guess.

    from pg 89, re the forced birth control:Should have skimmed it again.
    I quoted that above, it's on MY page 123, I guess we all have different pages, ugh.

    Another quote:

    After she dressed, Dr. Stevens pulled over a wooden stool. His manner remained light as he said, “You’ve had intimate relations. Have you considered birth control?” He smiled. South Carolina was in the midst of a large public health program, Dr. Stevens explained, to educate folks about a new surgical technique wherein the tubes inside a woman were severed to prevent the growth of a baby. The procedure was simple, permanent, and without risk. The new hospital was specially equipped, and Dr. Stevens himself had studied under the man who pioneered the technique, which had been perfected on the colored inmates of a Boston asylum. Teaching the surgery to local doctors and offering its gift to the colored population was part of the reason he was hired. “What if I don’t want to?” “The choice is yours, of course,” the doctor said. “As of this week, it is mandatory for some in the state. Colored women who have already birthed more than two children, in the name of population control. Imbeciles and the otherwise mentally unfit, for obvious reasons. Habitual criminals. But that doesn’t apply to you, Bessie. Those are women who already have enough burdens. This is just a chance for you to take control over your own destiny.”
    That MUSEUM in South Carolina ugh WHAT THE FUCK.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 07:10 PM.

  9. #159
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    okay hot damn, this shit is heating up now.
    but i have to run to the pharmacy.
    perhaps i am connecting a dot that shouldn't be connected regarding the irony of Mabel/Cora because my idea of its meaning goes along with what i feel is the main, fatalistic theme of the book.
    But do remember, while Cora longed for her mother, she also hated her.

    i am going to try to do this really fast. hopefully you two are still here when i get back.

  10. #160
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegate View Post
    C) She wanted freedom more than she wanted her daughter. That would also be pretty crushing, to not be wanted.
    That was Cora's perception. But see my above post.

    This section, from Mabel:

    She lay on her back and ate another turnip. Without the sound of her splashing and huffing, the noises of the swamp resumed. The spadefoot toads and turtles and slithering creatures, the chattering of black insects. Above— through the leaves and branches of the black-water trees— the sky scrolled before her, new constellations wheeling in the darkness as she relaxed. No patrollers, no bosses, no cries of anguish to induct her into another’s despair. No cabin walls shuttling her through the night seas like the hold of a slave ship. Sandhill cranes and warblers, otters splashing. On the bed of damp earth, her breathing slowed and that which separated herself from the swamp disappeared. She was free. This moment. She had to go back. The girl was waiting on her. This would have to do for now. Her hopelessness had gotten the best of her, speaking under her thoughts like a demon. She would keep this moment close, her own treasure. When she found the words to share it with Cora, the girl would understand there was something beyond the plantation, past all that she knew. That one day if she stayed strong, the girl could have it for herself. The world may be mean, but people don’t have to be, not if they refuse.
    Also, from my Page 53 (from "Georgia")
    The other Hob women dozed beside her in the loft. She listened to their breathing: That is Nag; that is Rida with her one ragged exhalation every other minute. This time tomorrow she would be loose in the night. Is this what her mother felt when she decided? Cora’s image of her was remote. What she remembered most was her sadness. Her mother was a Hob woman before there was a Hob. With the same reluctance to mix, the burden that bent her at all times and set her apart. Cora couldn’t put her together in her mind. Who was she? Where was she now? Why had she left her? Without a special kiss to say, When you remember this moment later you will understand that I was saying goodbye even if you did not know it.
    later:
    It had been a whim. Once Mabel ran, Cora thought of her as little as possible. After landing in South Carolina, she realized that she had banished her mother not from sadness but from rage. She hated her. Having tasted freedom’s bounty, it was incomprehensible to Cora that Mabel had abandoned her to that hell. A child. Her company would have made the escape more difficult, but Cora hadn’t been a baby. If she could pick cotton, she could run. She would have died in that place, after untold brutalities, if Caesar had not come along. In the train, in the deathless tunnel, she had finally asked him why he brought her with him. Caesar said, “Because I knew you could do it.” How she hated her. The nights without number she spent up in the miserable loft, tossing about, kicking the woman next to her, devising ways off the plantation. Sneaking into a cartload of cotton and leaping to the road outside New Orleans. Bribing an overseer with her favors. Taking her hatchet and running through the swamp as her wretched mother had done. All the sleepless nights. In the light of morning she convinced herself that her scheming had been a dream. Those were not her thoughts, not at all. Because to walk around with that in your mind and do nothing was to die. She didn’t know where her mother had fled. Mabel hadn’t spent her freedom saving money to buy her daughter out of bondage, that was certain. Randall would not have allowed it, but nonetheless. Miss Lucy never did find her mother’s name in her files. If she had, Cora would have walked up to Mabel and knocked her flat.
    And the VERY FIRST WORDS of the book:

    THE first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no. This was her grandmother talking.
    Ajarry was afraid to run, she accepted her fate. But Mabel wasn't afraid. (But then Mabel was afraid but we didn't know that until later, making Mabel more like Ajarry than Cora.) But Cora finally ran.

    Again, I believe all of this is deliberate, intentional irony because what she doesn't know -- AND WHAT THE READER DOESN'T KNOW -- is that Cora barely left the Randall plantation and immediately tried to return to Cora, to instill in her the sense of freedom, to make sure that Cora always wanted to attempt to be free.

    AND MABEL'S LEAVING DID JUST THAT! EVEN THOUGH SHE DIED IN THE ATTEMPT.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 08:17 PM.

  11. #161
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    I quoted that above, it's on MY page 123, I guess we all have different pages, ugh.

    Another quote:



    That MUSEUM in South Carolina ugh WHAT THE FUCK.
    Looks like you were editing it in at the same time I was posting, ha!


    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    That was Cora's perception. But see my above post.

    This section, from Mabel:
    This thread is moving so fast. Haven't gotten to Mabel's chapter yet, I'm stuck in Indiana. Didn't get as much a chance to read this weekend as I thought I would.

  12. #162
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    No, you posted that above mine, page 89, but I didn't know to what you referencing because nothing is on my page 89 that refers to that, because mine is on page 123. It is a lot of work to go get the quotes and copy and paste them, ugh.

    Oh shit. You better go finish before we spoil more shit for you!
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 05:18 PM.

  13. #163
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    Like I'll remember anyway! lol

    Just checked traffic and it's pretty bad so I'll take the bus instead of the train for more reading time.

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    @allegro , @allegate , yes, the museum!
    That was SO fucking awful and there is a lot being said there.
    Is it refering to a specific point in history?
    They "accept" the blacks and are going to "help" them, and at first Cora thinks it's wonderful.
    And the way the museum turned out, it was a live zoo.

    Perhaps this, coupled with the experiments and attempts at sterilization represent a point in time when blacks were "accepted" but still treated like shit. People were starting to love black entertainment (the museum.) But they don't want them around. They are good for entertainment. They are a curiosity that is being treated in a slightly more civil manner, but people still want rid of them.
    So again, does this point to a particular point in history?

    And the north carolina events were definitely informed by Nazi Germany.

    I just thought of something about what Valentine's farm represents, but i don't want to spoil it for @allegate .

    Another thing i thought about while driving is: isn't this story entirely anachronistic? I just realized that i don't remember any dates (i may be completely wrong on this.)

    SO many passages i highlighted gave me the impression that the messages being conveyed were about NOW.

    also, @allegro , i think you are right about the mabel/cora dynamic not being what i thought it was, and that is awesome. That is what makes what we are doing awesome
    Last edited by elevenism; 01-03-2017 at 05:53 PM.

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    Valentine's Farm reminded me of the socialist Black Panthers Free Breakfast Program.

    HERE'S WHAT COLSON WHITEHEAD SAYS ABOUT VALENTINE'S FARM.

    I think that South Carolina represents slaves being lulled and suppressed by false freedom, the niceness afforded them has an ulterior motive, the motive is to control them, placate them, soothe them with feelings of being "safe" (safe being a relative term) all the while covertly using them as free labor, taking advantage of them, charging them more for goods, forcing them to run up credit debts, using them for medical experiments, controlling their population, etc. And I wonder if the museum hinted at the blacks eventually becoming extinct. Again, think of Nazis, crowded into trains leading to their deaths. "Don't worry we will use you as labor" then "Get into the showers."

    SO MUCH of this book reminds me of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." (combined with the Diary of Ann Frank).

    @elevenism , no, I don't think the story is intended to be anachronistic; the author said that the chapters were informed by Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" (a voyage to a different land and then an escape or, as the author said, an "adventure story where someone goes from allegorical episode to allegorical episode, and escapes at the last minute") but also "fabulism."

    SEE THIS.

    The idea that the Underground Railroad was an actual train had been the idea that inspired this latest book. “I was thinking about how when you’re a kid, when you first hear about the underground railroad, you visualize a literal subway. Just because the image is so evocative,” Whitehead told me. “I thought, what if it actually was a subway?” His imagining of the book unfolded from there, informed considerably, he said, by Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. He imagined the slaves traveling from state to state, and that the story would “reboot” every once in awhile, showing some different aspect of America.
    Over time, Whitehead tells me, he dropped his onetime plan to have this be something of a fantastical story. Originally he thought, for example, that the Underground Railroad would transport the characters to different eras; instead, in the end, the action of the book all takes place in 1850. He spent a lot of time rereading slave narratives, the famous published ones like those of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, as well as narratives collected in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, which collected oral history from then-still-living former slaves. “They gave me enough material, in terms of slang and the kind of food they ate, in order to get going,” Whitehead said. “So it was four months before I felt ready to go.”

    One of the most remarkable things about the Underground Railroad is Cora’s level-headedness in the face of the suffering and tragedy she both encounters and experiences herself. Another sort of writer, one more sentimental than Whitehead, might have been tempted to ratchet up more open emotionalism. Instead, his book does not make a big show about Cora’s stoicism, and Whitehead came to believe it followed logically from the horror of slavery. “I think when all you’ve known is atrocity, how do you rank the latest atrocity with the rest?” he told me.

    Whitehead had in mind several grand schematic novels while composing the book. In high school, he took a class called Fabulism, and there he read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and Kafka. These books, alongside Gulliver’s Travels, informed the structure of Cora’s journey. “Any kind of adventure story where someone goes from allegorical episode to allegorical episode, and escapes at the last minute, that sort of outlandish series of events actually works for an escaped slave. You are just going from slim refuge to slim refuge trying to make it out.” He has a point, and the critics, who have all given The Underground Railroad rave reviews, seem to agree that Whitehead fastened on exactly the right metaphor. This, many people are saying, may be the novel that wins Whitehead the Pulitzer.
    OH I found this interview with the author where he explains the Museum a little:

    WHITEHEAD: Sure. Cora is a living exhibit, and so she stands in a display case all day along with two other former slaves, and they rotate through these different tableaus. One is scenes from darkest Africa, and that's a seemingly realistic depiction of life back in the motherland. And so there's a little hut and some gourds and some spears, and they pretend to interact with them. There's a scene on a slave ship where Cora is sort of happily swabbing - and not below decks in chains, as she would have been. And then there's life on a plantation, where she's happily sewing and not being whipped in the fields and otherwise abused by a master. And so the museum presents this false, sanitized version of American life for the nice white people of South Carolina who come to see it.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-03-2017 at 09:20 PM.

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    For me, one of the MOST gut-wrenching parts of the story is when Lovey is lost to the slave-catchers, the night-riders. And Cora knows that Lovey will be horribly tortured and killed.

    I was, like, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOO.

    And I think that's why Cora never really feels bad about killing that young white boy.

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    Valentine's Farm also reminded me of SOME aspect of the civil rights movement. The Black Panthers outreach work fits pretty good for sure.
    But then you saw what happened to it, you know?

    As to the quote you posted from Whitehead about the Museum, that's exactly what i took from it, but also that MOST WHITE PEOPLE NOW seem to carry with them a sanatized version of American History.

    Hell, this book did some desanitizing for ME, and i'm pretty goddamn progressive.

    It's a scary, scary look at where we have come from and where we are now with a TINY little glimmer of hope for where we are going.
    But it's changed the way i look at this country for sure.

  18. #168
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    Quote Originally Posted by elevenism View Post
    As to the quote you posted from Whitehead about the Museum, that's exactly what i took from it, but also that MOST WHITE PEOPLE NOW seem to carry with them a sanitized version of American History.
    Exactly. Like a lot of the South's (hell, even some people I know up here in the North) sanitizing the purpose of the Civil War as being about "States' Rights" and "not really about slavery."

    What did the states want rights ABOUT?

    The right to own SLAVES.

    Sorry, they're just sanitizing the truth.

    (And now they are blaming OBAMA for racism. Wtf.)

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    For me the most gut wrenching part was Ajarry, just seeing the horrors stated so matter-of-factly. And i don't mean the beatings or the nudity, i mean the simple fact of people as merchandise. People as things.

    Other gut wrenching parts were when Cora realized that the museum gig was like a zoo. It reminded me of that twilight zone episode called People Are Alike All Over and i'd have a hard time believing that episode wasn't an influence.

    The other gut wrenching part was when i started to suspect that the men were being used for experiments, especially when it used words like "get better" and "treatment."
    I teared up at that. I had to stop reading and hold the Mrs close.
    For me, when i am reading about terrible things, i imagine them happening to those closest to me, and i thought of how i would feel if SHE thought she was getting a "treatment" that was going to make her terribly sick.

    The whole book was fairly gut wrenching. @allegate , once you are finished, and @allegro , i am very interested if you came away from this book able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
    I think it was SUPPOSED to be there, but it wasn't enough for me.
    I'm doing better at explaining this book to my family in person than i am discussing it here. But my ultimate takeaway is this: slavery totally fucked this country up and it will NOT be healed any time in the near future.

    Another thing i noticed was a strange dichotomy between Ridgeway and Cora. It felt like they were both just playing their parts, both part of a fucked up system. I'm not saying i felt sympathy for the slave catcher, rather, i felt that he was just doing it because it was a job, and a perfectly normal job in that time and place.
    And it seemed that his attitude was simply instilled by the institutions and circumstances of the day.

  20. #170
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    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    Exactly. Like a lot of the South's (hell, even some people I know up here in the North) sanitizing the purpose of the Civil War as being about "States' Rights" and "not really about slavery."

    What did the states want rights ABOUT?

    The right to own SLAVES.

    Sorry, they're just sanitizing the truth.

    (And now they are blaming OBAMA for racism. Wtf.)
    And OMG I KNOW! In my ADVANCED PLACEMENT US History class (for which you get college credit in high school,) we had to write essays all about how the civil war had NOTHING to do with slavery.
    I was like "well this is pretty fucked up right here!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by elevenism View Post
    Another thing i noticed was a strange dichotomy between Ridgeway and Cora. It felt like they were both just playing their parts, both part of a fucked up system. I'm not saying i felt sympathy for the slave catcher, rather, i felt that he was just doing it because it was a job
    I got the EXACT same impression. Like he respected her for managing to survive that long, and she respected him even just a little for his at least having conversations with her and protecting her. And they managed to have some kind of 'relationship' during their time, although Cora did kick his teeth out later.

    It was so weird that the ONLY escape out of that Hell Hole that was North Carolina was the fucking Slave Catcher Ridgeway.

    I sat there reading that chapter in utter suspense and horror, I couldn't put it down, wondering WHAT the hell they were going to do; I mean, the three of them were totally screwed, there was seemingly NO way out of that mess, each base was covered by some slave-killing or collaborator-hanging bullshit, including night-riders and checkpoints, etc. But a SLAVE CATCHER, ahhhhh, wtf. So RIDGEWAY saved her from death.

    “You go on about reasons,” Cora said. “Call things by other names as if it changes what they are. But that don’t make them true. You killed Jasper in cold blood.”

    “That was more of a personal matter,” Ridgeway conceded, “and not what I’m talking about here. You and your friend killed a boy. You have your justifications.”

    “I was going to escape.”

    “That’s all I’m talking about, survival. Do you feel awful about it?”

    The boy’s death was a complication of her escape, like the absence of a full moon or losing the head start because Lovey had been discovered out of her cabin. But shutters swung out inside her and she saw the boy trembling on his sickbed, his mother weeping over his grave. Cora had been grieving for him, too, without knowing it. Another person caught in this enterprise that bound slave and master alike. She moved the boy from the lonely list in her head and logged him below Martin and Ethel, even though she did not know his name. X, as she signed herself before she learned her letters.

    Nonetheless. She told Ridgeway, “No.”

    “Of course not— it’s nothing. Better weep for one of those burned cornfields, or this steer swimming in our soup. You do what’s required to survive.” He wiped his lips. “It’s true, though, your complaint. We come up with all sorts of fancy talk to hide things. Like in the newspapers nowadays, all the smart men talking about Manifest Destiny. Like it’s a new idea. You don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?” Ridgeway asked.

    Cora sat back. “More words to pretty things up.”

    “It means taking what is yours, your property, whatever you deem it to be. And everyone else taking their assigned places to allow you to take it. Whether it’s red men or Africans, giving up themselves, giving of themselves, so that we can have what’s rightfully ours. The French setting aside their territorial claims. The British and the Spanish slinking away.

    “My father liked his Indian talk about the Great Spirit,” Ridgeway said. “All these years later, I prefer the American spirit, the one that called us from the Old World to the New, to conquer and build and civilize. And destroy that what needs to be destroyed. To lift up the lesser races. If not lift up, subjugate. And if not subjugate, exterminate. Our destiny by divine prescription— the American imperative.”

    “I need to visit the outhouse,” Cora said.

    The corners of his mouth sank. He gestured for her to walk in front. The steps to the back alley were slippery with vomit and he grabbed her elbow to steady her. Closing the outhouse door, shutting him out, was the purest pleasure she’d had in a long while.

    Ridgeway continued his address undeterred. “Take your mother,” the slave catcher said. “Mabel. Stolen from her master by misguided whites and colored individuals in a criminal conspiracy."

    I think I DO see a light at the end of the tunnel, but I think it will take a long long time and I think, as was hinted at in this book, the white people won't be the only ones to fix it; the black people will have to remove their own shackles and demand equal treatment, etc., like this "Black Lives Matter" movement that is far more than just cop killings; it's also about better education, better healthcare, better jobs, etc. Kind of like what Valentine was trying to do. Except not necessarily a segregated farm. But it certainly can't be "let's increase the minimum wage!" That just puts minorities in minimum wages forever, instead of pushing them into better jobs with better opportunities. The biggest aspiration of the black community shouldn't be sports star or hiphop star.
    Last edited by allegro; 01-04-2017 at 02:28 AM.

  22. #172
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    "It means taking what is yours...whatever you deem it to be"

    And what is Cora's, her "property" is her "freedom."
    So she somehow fits into Ridgeway's twisted version of the "american spirit!"

    And what an interesting dichotomy/duality between the two of them, Ridgeway and Cora.

    I am glad you saw it too.

    When we discuss more, i will make sure i have my notes out

  23. #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by elevenism View Post
    @allegro , @allegate , yes, the museum!
    That was SO fucking awful and there is a lot being said there.
    Is it refering to a specific point in history?
    They "accept" the blacks and are going to "help" them, and at first Cora thinks it's wonderful.
    And the way the museum turned out, it was a live zoo.

    Perhaps this, coupled with the experiments and attempts at sterilization represent a point in time when blacks were "accepted" but still treated like shit. People were starting to love black entertainment (the museum.) But they don't want them around. They are good for entertainment. They are a curiosity that is being treated in a slightly more civil manner, but people still want rid of them.
    So again, does this point to a particular point in history?

    And the north carolina events were definitely informed by Nazi Germany.

    I just thought of something about what Valentine's farm represents, but i don't want to spoil it for @allegate .

    Another thing i thought about while driving is: isn't this story entirely anachronistic? I just realized that i don't remember any dates (i may be completely wrong on this.)

    SO many passages i highlighted gave me the impression that the messages being conveyed were about NOW.


    also, @allegro , i think you are right about the mabel/cora dynamic not being what i thought it was, and that is awesome. That is what makes what we are doing awesome
    Hence my comment about the use of the word skyscrapers to describe the buildings she sees when she comes out of the railroad the first time. But I don't think it's meant to be about today any more than any other book is. What's that famous phrase about history and how it all comes back around again? If you see it as something happening today, it's because the missteps of the past still haunt us as we continue down this path that doesn't seem to have changed in the intervening years.

    Almost done with the book.

  24. #174
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    “They call this road the Freedom Trail now,” Martin said as he covered the wagon again. “The bodies go all the way to town.”
    In what sort of hell had the train let her off?
    "freedom" for slaves = death.

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    Quote Originally Posted by allegate View Post
    "freedom" for slaves = death.
    Ultimately, exactly. Black people still call it "going home" to this day.

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    Going back to Mabel/Cora: When she's having the fantasy in NC about going North:
    In another scene, years hence, Cora walked down a busy street in her city and came across her mother. Begging in the gutter, a broken old woman bent into the sum of her mistakes. Mabel looked up but did not recognize her daughter. Cora kicked her beggar’s cup, the few coins flew into the hubbub, and she continued on her afternoon errand to fetch flour for her son’s birthday cake.
    Not even a slave anymore and still carrying that water.

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    I think that happens a lot with people who were abandoned by a parent, slave or not; I know people who feel that way, now, and they weren't slaves.

    Again, I think the author is setting up the ultimate irony that he will reveal, later.

    It sure hit ME like a ton of bricks.

    Whitehead uses irony a lot.

    “If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness.”
    Last edited by allegro; 01-05-2017 at 10:59 AM.

  28. #178
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    Man, I've had a rough weekend. Haven't been able to use a computer since Friday afternoon because I cut the tip of my finger off while cooking. Can't really use one now but I'm managing. Haven't read anything since then because I've been in pain. I'll get the last 5% of the book read today, possibly.

  29. #179
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    I fucking hate snow. Well, I hate snow storms, more specifically, as they take my power and my computer that had a text document open with thoughts and quotes from the last several chapters of the book. It did not save because unlike Word, wordpad does not have that function for loss of power. Uugh.

    So anyway I finished the book. I would have posted earlier but, again, no power.
    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    And the VERY FIRST WORDS of the book:



    Ajarry was afraid to run, she accepted her fate. But Mabel wasn't afraid. (But then Mabel was afraid but we didn't know that until later, making Mabel more like Ajarry than Cora.) But Cora finally ran.

    Again, I believe all of this is deliberate, intentional irony because what she doesn't know -- AND WHAT THE READER DOESN'T KNOW -- is that Cora barely left the Randall plantation and immediately tried to return to Cora, to instill in her the sense of freedom, to make sure that Cora always wanted to attempt to be free.

    AND MABEL'S LEAVING DID JUST THAT! EVEN THOUGH SHE DIED IN THE ATTEMPT.
    Huh, good point.
    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    I got the EXACT same impression. Like he respected her for managing to survive that long, and she respected him even just a little for his at least having conversations with her and protecting her. And they managed to have some kind of 'relationship' during their time, although Cora did kick his teeth out later.

    It was so weird that the ONLY escape out of that Hell Hole that was North Carolina was the fucking Slave Catcher Ridgeway.

    I sat there reading that chapter in utter suspense and horror, I couldn't put it down, wondering WHAT the hell they were going to do; I mean, the three of them were totally screwed, there was seemingly NO way out of that mess, each base was covered by some slave-killing or collaborator-hanging bullshit, including night-riders and checkpoints, etc. But a SLAVE CATCHER, ahhhhh, wtf. So RIDGEWAY saved her from death.
    I know, it was so close to deus ex machine too. I mean, how did he know she was going to be there? He really sounded like he knew it was her vs. some random runaway.


    I think I DO see a light at the end of the tunnel, but I think it will take a long long time and I think, as was hinted at in this book, the white people won't be the only ones to fix it; the black people will have to remove their own shackles and demand equal treatment, etc., like this "Black Lives Matter" movement that is far more than just cop killings; it's also about better education, better healthcare, better jobs, etc. Kind of like what Valentine was trying to do. Except not necessarily a segregated farm. But it certainly can't be "let's increase the minimum wage!" That just puts minorities in minimum wages forever, instead of pushing them into better jobs with better opportunities. The biggest aspiration of the black community shouldn't be sports star or hiphop star.
    Forgetting the recent history, I liked this quote from Bill Cosby:


    Quote Originally Posted by allegro View Post
    I think that happens a lot with people who were abandoned by a parent, slave or not; I know people who feel that way, now, and they weren't slaves.

    Again, I think the author is setting up the ultimate irony that he will reveal, later.

    It sure hit ME like a ton of bricks.

    Whitehead uses irony a lot.

    “If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness.”
    Yup, very strong.

  30. #180
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    I would almost swear there was a post about Ollie and how he's got a brand so similar to Cora's but when I search the thread I can't find it.

    Also: if you liked this one you should totally check out Underground Airlines next.
    Last edited by allegate; 01-18-2017 at 01:02 PM.

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