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The Underground Railroad
A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's desperate bid for...
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"The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

Created: 10/27/16

Replies: 7

Posted Oct. 27, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1303

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"The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

"The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?


Posted Nov. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 130

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RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

It expresses what the fates of all the characters show, white or black: freedom is precious and rare. Even when we think we are free, our choices and attitudes are shaped or restrained by a system that is corrupt at its core, from greed and a lust for power. Yet we remain ignorant, like the dead slave Michael known on Randall Plantation for reciting the Declaration of Independence, without really grasping what that means. Like the underground passengers, we are riding forward in the darkness of our system, seeking freedom but not finding it. Like Cora, we have yet to "arrive" at a home with freedom.

Whitehead shows us whites like Ridgeway or Ethel or Fiona and the hoards of other immigrants, who are twisted by the system, along with the slaves, whether they resist openly or merely accidentally annoy a master (like Chester). Whites and blacks seeking to change the system, as on Valentine's farm, or with the railway agents, and above all Cora, put themselves at great risk, some paying the ultimate price of life itself; but they are the characters to admire as they are striving to put meaning into the words of our founding document.


Posted Nov. 05, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
celiaarnaud

Join Date: 04/18/12

Posts: 35

RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

I loved the scene in the classroom at the beginning of the Indiana chapter. Cora didn't recognize the Declaration of Independence when she first heard it. These children were being taught the meaning of the words, even as they memorized them. For Michael, the recitation had always been just about the words. But Georgina acknowledges that the younger children don't understand what they're saying. On page 240, it says: "What they don't understand today, they might tomorrow. 'The Declaration is like a map. You trust that it's right, but you only know by going out and testing it yourself.'"

About the quote in the question, The treasure of the Underground Railroad is denominated in freedom. It's a currency that so many of the people in the book risked their lives to obtain either for themselves or for others. And the ones who were working for others in some senses had more to lose because they already had their freedom. For those who didn't have their freedom, I wonder whether they just got to the point that if they couldn't be free, they didn't want to live any more. That doesn't make the attempt to gain their freedom any easier but it gives it real meaning and gives them the strength to try. They could just as easily (more easily, I think) have just decided to keep their heads down, do what they were asked to do, and stayed alive. But they wouldn't have felt alive in the same way.


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
garyr

Join Date: 10/23/12

Posts: 13

RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

I actually believe this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,the quest everyone is reaching for!


Posted Nov. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kellyo

Join Date: 09/15/16

Posts: 36

RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

The purpose of the underground railroad was to offer the opportunity of freedom. Finding this hidden underground railroad was akin to finding a secret treasure. Freedom was the dearest currency in that people risked their lives either helping others reach the railroad, or in the hope of finding freedom with the risk of being caught and killed. For many, the hope of living freely was worth the risk of dying.

I agree with JLPen77 in that we have a false sense of freedom and that many of our beliefs/choices are controlled by some corrupt systems, including the government and some religious institutions.


Posted Nov. 10, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
edie

Join Date: 04/05/12

Posts: 44

RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

The quote is taken from a conversation between Cora and Martin Wells. He is telling her how he inherited his role in the underground railroad from his father. Because Martin never really understood his taciturn father, he misinterpreted Donald's deathbed legacy. When he instructed his son to carry on his work, Martin assumed it meant he should take over his father's feed store. When Martin found the map in his father's papers, he assumed it was a treasure map leading to gold. Only after he followed the map to the abandoned mine that served as station for the underground railroad did he realize his father had been an active abolitionist, that the map's treasure was the railroad to freedom purchased at great cost.

The cost of the underground railroad is a recurring theme throughout the book: Cora is awestruck at first encounter with the railroad in the Georgia station under Lumbly's barn. "Appreciation became too mealy a word to contain what lay before her... The tunnel, the tracks, the desperate souls who found salvation in the coordination of its stations and timetables--this was a marvel to be proud of. She wondered if those who had built this thing had received their proper reward."

But what made this treasure so dear wasn't just the cost to the builders, but also the cost to those who rode its rail--a price paid with courage in the face of life and death risks, strict precaution against detection to protect those who helped them, a willingness to face the unknown as each departure did not carry with it the guarantee of a safe arrival or a proper destination. The price was too often paid in burnt out houses, hangings, and closed routes. But the treasure made it worth everything.


Posted Nov. 23, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marganna

Join Date: 10/14/11

Posts: 90

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RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

edie: that is beautifully written & well thought out. I will not even try to explain the quote better. However, I will read & re-read your answer as it is poetic.


Posted Nov. 24, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pamelah

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 19

RE: "The treasure, of course, was the underground railroad… Some might call freedom the dearest currency of all." How does this quote shape the story for you?

This quote underscores the importance freedom to Martin's father, Donald, who founded a spur of the Underground RR in North Carolina, where "working this far south was suicide...". He hoped Martin would see the importance of his mission, and carry it on.


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