The Underground Railroad: Freedom's Tracks and the Unraveling of the American Dream - Colson Whitehead

American literature essay. Literary analysis of works and characters - Sykalo Evgen 2023

The Underground Railroad: Freedom's Tracks and the Unraveling of the American Dream
Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead explores the broken promise of the American Dream through the prism of a brutalized reality and is a biting critique of the hypocrisy of the American Dream. It is not just a historical fiction about Cora, a runaway slave in the antebellum South. This article will examine the literary devices used to weave this potent critique, emphasizing how the experiences of the characters reveal how unfulfilling the American Dream is for those who are enslaved.

Cora's Odyssey: A Broken Freedom Landscape

Cora's escape from slavery is not a straight road that leads to a perfect North. Rather, it is a disjointed voyage across perilous terrain, both real and imagined. The "Underground Railroad" reveals a distinct aspect of the dashed American Dream at each station. Built on the backs of enslaved people, the South represents the hideous underbelly of the ideal with its monstrous plantations and dehumanizing practices. The conflicting white abolitionists and cunning Black communities in the Carolinas highlight the self-serving nature of freedom. Ridgeway, the tenacious slave hunter, is a living example of the unrelenting quest of power and wealth that preserves the American Dream at the cost of human lives.

Layers of Symbolism: Peeling Back the Curtain

Whitehead skillfully uses symbolism to highlight the American Dream's contradiction. The "Underground Railroad" is a metaphor for the difficult-to-find and disjointed pathway to freedom for those who are enslaved. It is a real network of escape routes. The unstable and erratic trains mirror the perilous nature of their voyage. Cora's many interactions with elements of nature, such as fire and water, highlight the journey's transforming possibilities and harsh realities even more.

The Dissection of Personal Dreams

Cora's journey is about breaking free from the internalized constraints of the American Dream, not just about getting away from physical restraints. Caesar, the oppressed man who rejects the illusory promises of the Dream in favor of self-sufficiency over escape, stands for an alternative course. Mabel, the enslaved lady who choose to remain on the plantation, is a sobering reminder that the attraction of the Dream may also be a trap. She represents the resignation that results from hopelessness.

The Narrative's Power: Revealing and Taking Back

By means of Cora's disjointed stories and fluctuating viewpoints, Whitehead undermines the unified story of the American Dream. The stories of each character provide a counterbalance, highlighting the flaws and inconsistencies in the prevailing narrative. By giving them a new perspective on freedom and restoring their agency, this polyphonic narrative empowers the oppressed.

In conclusion, an eerie legacy

Not only is The Underground Railroad a historical novel, but it also offers a biting indictment of the long-lasting effects of the American Dream. Through revealing the shattered vistas of liberty, the symbolic strata that unveil deceit, and the personal experiences that shatter illusions, Whitehead forces us to face the difficult realities of America's past and present. The novel's eerie force comes from its refusal to provide readers with simple solutions, forcing them to consider the complexity of freedom and the never-ending battle to rediscover its true meaning.

This essay merely serves as a springboard for your analysis. You can investigate more in-depth particulars such as:

Character Development: Examine Cora's and the other characters' growth in-depth, demonstrating how their decisions and experiences represent various facets of the Dream's influence.
Symbolism: Talk about particular symbols and their meanings, citing passages from the text to back up your conclusions.
Historical Context: Connect the novel's themes to the intricate abolitionist movement and the actual experiences of enslaved people.
Literary Devices: Examine how Whitehead use point of view, narrative structure, and language to enhance the overall effect of the work.