Exploring the Transformative Power of Literacy and the Corrupting Influence of Power in The Underground Railroad


Before completing this, please read p.132-196. As always, use this space to process any questions you are experiencing too.
Directions: Please answer all of these questions. The first two are a little meat-y. Take your time. There is no right answer. Rely on your interpretation, your opinions, even if you’re unsure if they’re ‘right.’ The whole class benefits from seeing a wide variety of answers.
Before completing this, read the Douglass passage. Douglass reflects on the transformative power of literacy in the face of oppression. How does this theme of literacy and empowerment resonate with the character development and experiences of Cora? What is the role of literacy in freedom? How do YOU react knowing your own experience with being able to read and write? Did this change your opinion?
Draw a connection between Douglass’ mistress’s transformation from a helpful teacher to a cruel oppressor, demonstrating the corrupting influence of power and privilege, and the white characters in the novel, of which there’s both saviors and oppressors. Which white characters in the novel subvert this oppressor role? Confirm this? It could be interesting to contrast some of the people Cora meets in South Carolina to those she meets in North Carolina, and her ultimate fate at the end of this section, particularly in the chapter titled Ethel.
If you could ask Cora one question what would you ask? Consider, and share here, some new information we learned about Cora in this section (132-196). Connect to what we learned about Characterization to create this portrait of Cora.
These are tough questions, so let’s end on a lighter note. How was reading this section for you? What did you enjoy, what did you struggle with, what were you confused about? How do you think the novel will end?



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