Hero's Essay

Kellum 1
Jada Kellum
Honors English 1
Heroes Essay: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
“Writing in 2015 and imagining what kind of desperation could lead someone to leave a
plantation is hard” (Colson Whitehead)
When Colson white worse “the underground railroad” he has already begun to establish
in his mind how he would introduce a definition of an archetypal hero: Cora, a runaway slave
girl fighting for her freedom one day at a time.
Cora’s journey begins “the first time Cesar approached Cora about running away, she
said no” (whitehead 1) with a refusal of call. This is only because of years of fear instilled into
her, making her reluctant to rebel. After witnessing many cruel and unusual punishments done to
others before her who tried to escape, it is completely normal for her to be cautious of leaving.
Fear does not refrain someone from being a hero, fear is a normal human emotion. Also, she
could have said no due to trust.
People have not treated her very fairly in her life and it’s a big step to take trusting a total
stranger to runaway with. Cora’s mind changed about Cesar during the party when he was
moments away from being beaten to a pulp and she instinctively stepped in and shielded him
with her own body. This resulted in them being tortured together and left Cora in critical
condition from being beaten into a concussion. This entire altercation changed Cora’s decision
regarding running away with Cesar. Cora may have changed her mind to save herself from being
hurt more though most likely watching someone she genuinely cared about having suffered, had
Last Name 2
awakened her mind. This was a demonstration of bravery and courage committed by a true hero.
Though some may beg to differ on this because it may have been more out of fear of being
tortured more and she wanted to escape but, considering she was more brutally hurt then Cesar
and still not in fear of running away and risking, yet another beating.
There were two crucial scenes in this story that brought Cora to life in Colson
Whiteheads minds: when she stands up for a fellow slave when she tries to protect Chester, a
child from the slave master. ““ridgeway arrives before the two can leave, and Cora is forced to
return to the railroad alone.” This is further evidence proving Cora was not written to be a selfish
person. Colson Whitehead has indeed imagined Cora as the hero of this story, even if she was
only seen as a hero to herself.
Two times in the story did Cora indeed prove herself as a hero to the reader: Due to
unfortunate events Cora is subjected to continuing her journey alone. This does not stop her from
doing what she must do in order to gain freedom. Even with ridgeway at the very back of her
heels she pushes on forward. This is a basic display of courage- usually found in heroes. Though
she is not to be considered a typical archetypal hero, she does have the aspirations and
characteristics of one.
On her very own she makes it to safety twice: “Cora is forced to kill a teenage boy to
protect herself and Cesar, eliminating any possibility of merciful treatment should she ever be
recaptured.” “ridgeway arrives before the two can leave, and Cora is forced to return to the
railroad alone.” Independence is a grave characteristic for a hero, for most things Cora was able
to accomplish on her own: when first escaping and they were caught by hunters, Cora defended
herself in the upmost way without any kind of assistance. Though she may have killed one of the
Last Name 3
boys, no one should account her for that. She did what she had to do to achieve freedom and
sometimes you may have to do things you don’t want to do.
While reading this book you will discover Cora is not only a hero to herself for
accomplishing the impossible but, she is also a hero to her fellow slaves for surviving the
impossible. She took the risk of being skinned alive to make a real life for herself. This is
probably the most dangerous crime to commit during that time. No slave who escaped ever was
shown any kind of mercy when captured. And though she was captured by Ridgeway twice she
managed to escape twice, her motivation to never stop running is truly inspiring. She may not
have actually saved anyone by doing so but, she set a great example for other slaves back on the
Randall plantation showing them it’s possible to succeed in running away. We don’t know for
sure weather she ever was brought back after running from Ridgeway the second time but, it’s
inferred she made It across the border. Being a hero in this particular story is all about taking
risks, weather you actually succeed or not isn’t what makes you a hero, it’s that you even took a
risk at all.
Last Name 4
Works Cited
En.wikipedia.org. (2019). The Underground Railroad (novel). [online] Available at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Underground_Railroad_(novel) [Accessed 5 Feb.
2019]. “ridgeway arrives before the two can leave, and Cora is forced to return to the
railroad alone.”
Brockes, E. (2019). Colson Whitehead: ‘To deal with this subject with the gravity it
deserved was scary’. [online] the Guardian. Available at:
[Accessed 5 Feb. 2019]. “ridgeway arrives before the two can leave, and Cora is forced to return
to the railroad alone.”
Related flashcards
Create Flashcards