The Underground Railroad

Delusion and Reality in The Underground Railroad College

The realms of delusion and reality are typically intrinsically separated, existing as opposites in the spectrum between myth and actuality. In The Underground Railroad however, Colson Whitehead merges fantastical and mythical elements with realism, and this interaction forms the basis of the plot of the novel. In The Underground Railroad, the relationship between delusion and reality provides a justification for the actions of the characters, as Cora’s escape, the notion of American equality, and the institution of slavery all rest on faulty foundation myths that nonetheless produce concrete consequences.

In the novel, the myth that fundamentally informs Cora’s character is the myth that her mother successfully escaped the Randall Plantation. When Caesar approaches Cora about his plan to leave, he states “But I’m going soon, and I want you. For good luck” (27). Caesar asks Cora to come because he believes her mother is the only slave to have gained freedom from their plantation. Cora’s answer is also informed by this belief, and when she says yes, Whitehead notes that “This was her mother talking” (8). In this way, it is established that Cora possesses the courage to set out with Caesar because she believes that her mother did...

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