The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad Imagery

Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is a grotesque path through the woods, lined with the tortured bodies of black people. When North Carolina embarked on an effort to rid the state of black people, slaves or freemen, it set up this Freedom Trail to serve as a public warning. The images of dead bodies rotting from the trees, extending into the forest as far as the eye can see, are chilling. They haunt the pathway, signaling to Cora and readers alike that the new society where Cora has emerged from the Underground Railroad will prove a sinister one.

American Expansion and Progress

Descriptions of the Griffin Building in South Carolina provide an example of this kind of imagery. Gray clouds pass overhead and the height of the building evokes the pyramids of ancient civilizations in Cora's mind. One day, the Griffin Building will have brothers and sisters “striding over the land,” personification that vividly describes the process of economic development and urbanization that accompanies American expansion.

Tennessee Wildfire

As Cora, Jasper, Ridgeway, Boseman, and Homer make their way through Tennessee on their circuitous journey to deliver Cora back to the Randall plantation, they encounter a desolate and destroyed landscape; a huge wildfire has recently spread through the state. The narrator uses vivic imagery to describe this scorched landscape, the charred arms of trees “pointing as if to a distant place untouched by flame,” the land empty, swarming with “dry flies screeching in waves” (200-1).

Sybil and Molly's Cabin

Throughout the novel, Cora longs for the idyllic setting of familial bliss. While hiding in the attic in North Carolina, she imagines the tasteful, bright rooms of a future house, filled with the love and joy of a future family. When she arrives on the Valentine farm, the cabin she lives in with Sybil and her daughter Molly provide a taste of that future. The narrator describes the renovations and small improvements the mother-daughter pair have made on the cabin in detail, showing the love and care behind it. The house showcases wildflowers, purple curtains, yellow and pink paint, a hand-dyed carpet, and the work of carpenter friends to make custom furniture.