The characters of the subway | GridSaver (2023)

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Kora

the protagonist ofthe subway,Cora is a sharp, intelligent, and determined character. Most of the book is told from her perspective as she escapes her life as a slave on a Georgia plantation and takes the Underground Railroad across several states and eventually to freedom. As a child, she is abandoned by her mother Mabel, who runs away. Cora finds solace in tending her mother's vegetable garden, even as she is relegated to the status of an outcast among the slaves. He escapes to South Carolina with another slave, Caesar. There she worked first as a nanny for white children and later as a live model for historical exhibits in a museum. She flees alone to North Carolina when she and Caesar are spotted by a slave hunter, Ridgeway, and she hides in an attic for months. Ridgeway eventually captures her there and they travel across Tennessee together. On their way back to the plantation, a group of Underground Railroad agents rescue Cora and take her to a vacant black farm in Indiana, where she is healed, falls in love, and leads a normal life. The farm is eventually destroyed by white settlers in an act of racial hatred and Ridgeway encounters Cora again. She pushes him to death in a subway station and escapes one last time. His story comes to an ambiguously optimistic ending when he joins a caravan bound for California.

ajar

Ajarry was born in Africa and brutally sold into slavery in the United States. He ends up in Georgia on Randall's plantation. She takes three husbands, all of whom will be sold or die. Ajarry gives birth to five children, all die except one, Mabel. He began cultivating a small piece of land next to the slave quarters, growing yams and okra, a legacy he leaves to Mabel and Cora. Ajarry dies of an aneurysm while working in the cotton fields and his life shaped by slavery.

mabel

Born on Randall's plantation as a slave, Ajarry's daughter Mabel is the only one of Ajarry's five children to live past the age of ten. She has a hard life in Randall, surviving sexual assault at the hands of another slave, Moses. At fourteen, she falls in love with another slave, Grayson, who is Cora's father, and shortly thereafter dies of a fever. One day when Cora is nine years old, Mabel leaves her and tries to run away from Randall so she can experience freedom and Cora will know it's possible. However, she decides to return to the plantation when she realizes that Cora needs her. On the way back through the swamp, she is bitten by a cottonmouth and dies. Nobody finds his body, so the other characters believe he successfully escaped. Cora resents her mother for leaving her behind.

César

Caesar was born a slave on a small farm in Virginia owned by a widow named Mrs. Garner. The old woman taught her slaves to read and write and promises to free Caesar and his parents, Lily Jane and Jerome. However, after Mrs. Garner dies, Caesar and his parents are sold separately, with Caesar being sold to the Randall Plantation. What he appreciates about Randall is his woodworking skills, selling his bowls at the weekend markets, and also his secret ability to read. He decides to run away and convinces Cora to run away with him. The two grow closer during their escape and when they settle in South Carolina, César tries to kiss Cora. She is unsure of his advances, but Ridgeway finds her before she can make up her mind. Ridgeway takes Caesar to prison, where he is murdered by a white mob.

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loving

Lovey, Cora's best friend at Randall Plantation, loves to dance and celebrate the small, simple joys of plantation life. She escapes with Cora and Caesar, but is captured before leaving Georgia. Cora learns of her fate towards the end of the novel: after her capture, Lovey was impaled on a stake, and her body was displayed as a warning to other slaves in Randall.

Blake

Blake is a hard-working Carolina farm hand who was sold to Randall's plantation when Cora was a child. He tries to confiscate Cora's vegetable garden for her dog. Cora destroys her kennel with an ax to protect her country and earns a reputation as Hob's wife, an outcast.

Jockey

Jockey, the oldest slave on Randall's plantation, announces his birthday whenever he feels like it. Every birthday, the slaves throw a big party on the northern half of Randall's plantation.

Chester

Chester, a Randall Plantation boy who was left alone after his parents were sold, befriends Cora. He accidentally spills a drop of wine on Terrance Randall's shirt, causing Terrance's anger. Cora tries to protect Chester from Terrance's punches and they are both punched.

Terrasse Randall

One of Old Randall's two sons, he and his brother James take over the plantation after their father's death. James dies shortly thereafter, leaving Terrance as the sole lord. He is a cruel tyrant of a master who inflicts sadistic punishments on his slaves. He becomes obsessed with Cora after she protected Chester from his punches and especially after she ran away. At the end of the novel, her heart is racing in a New Orleans brothel.

James Randall

A less volatile teacher than his brother, James inherits the northern half of his father's plantation. He allows the slaves the occasional holiday and celebration, and is content with steady, reliable profits from the plantation. He falls ill and dies, leaving his half of the plantation in Terrance's care.

Connelly

Connolly, a cruel overseer at Randall's plantation, was hired by the original Randall. He is known on the plantation for sleeping with female slaves and for inflicting severe punishment with his whip.

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Sister Fletcher

He is a white male in Georgia who runs an Underground Railroad station. Cora and Caesar escape through it. Eventually Ridgeway forces him to confess. His fate is unknown, but he was presumably killed by Ridgeway.

Arnold Ridgeway

Ridgeway, a well-known and feared slave hunter, believes in the ideals of a violent, white supremacist America. He grew up in Virginia with a blacksmith who encouraged him to find his purpose. Ridgeway couldn't find Mabel when she ran away, so he's obsessed with getting his daughter Cora back. He pursues her relentlessly across state lines throughout the novel. In the final pages of the novel, Cora mortally wounds him by pushing him down the stairs of a Tennessee subway station.

Bosemann

Ridgeway's assistant Boseman is often on the same page as the slaver, even without words. He wears an ear chain he won in a wrestling match from a Native American named Strong and is afraid of contracting an infectious disease because his brothers died from yellow fever. In Tennessee, he attempts to rape Cora but is stopped by Ridgeway. He is shot when Royal and other railroad officials rescue Cora from the Ridgeway wagon in Tennessee.

Jaspis

As a black slave captured by Ridgeway, Jasper is constantly singing hymns. He is chained with Cora in the back of the Ridgeway wagon as they drive back through Tennessee to their masters. Finally, Ridgeway shoots Jasper to silence him, figuring that peace and quiet are worth more than the value of Jasper's generosity.

Homer

Homer, a ten-year-old black boy, drives Ridgeway's car and keeps his records. Former slave Ridgeway freed him but remains by his side. Homer is a mystery to Cora. Wearing a black suit and hat, he seems unperturbed by the racism and violence perpetuated by his boss.

Sam

Sam, a 25-year-old white man who works at a subway station in South Carolina, works at a local whites-only pub. He provides Cora and Caesar with false documents and stories, and befriends them throughout their time in North Carolina. When Ridgeway finds Cora and Caesar in North Carolina, Sam's house burns down. Cora doesn't know if Sam will make it out alive or not until he shows up at the Valentine farm in Indiana to get a job on the Underground Railroad. He plans to travel west to California.

vermisse lucy

As warden of Cora's South Carolina dorm, she recommends Cora a job as a living exhibit at the Museum of Natural Wonders and encourages her to opt for contraceptive surgery, which is being offered to her by government doctors. Cora doesn't trust Miss Lucy and eventually discovers that she is likely part of the government's eugenics and forced sterilization regime to control the black population.

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Aloysius Stevens

He is a white government doctor, originally from Maine, and a graduate of Boston Medical School. As a student, he paid his tuition and living expenses by working as a body thief, stealing corpses from their graves to sell on the black market for dissections and anatomy studies. He works as a doctor in South Carolina and advocates contraception for black women.

Martin Wells

Martin, a North Carolina station agent, hides Cora in his home despite the danger. He's a reluctant agent for the Underground Railroad, taking on the cause as a legacy from his abolitionist father, Donald. Martin often talks to Cora while she's holed up in her attic and gives her almanacs to read. The city lynches Martin and his wife Ethel when they discover they have hidden Cora.

Ethel Brunen

Martin's wife grew up wealthy in Virginia. All her life she wanted to be a missionary in Africa, but became a teacher when her parents felt her choice was unsuitable. He reluctantly takes Cora to live with him in North Carolina, fearing she will get caught. However, when Cora falls ill, he finds redemption by nursing Cora back to health. The lyrics suggest that Ethel is a lesbian, although this is never openly stated. Ethel and her husband are lynched by North Carolina residents.

Real

Royal is a freeborn black man who started working for the Underground Railroad in New York City. He lives on Valentine Farm. On a mission for the Tennessee Railroad, Royal and a few other agents rescue Cora from Ridgeway. Royal brings Cora back to Valentine Farm, where they pursue a slowly evolving romance. Cora is wary, but eventually opens her heart to Royal and he becomes the first person she truly loves and trusts. He shows Cora the subway station near the farm, where Cora eventually escapes. When Ridgeway and the white mob storm Valentine Farm, Royal is shot and dies in Cora's arms.

Juan and Gloria Valentin

They are the owners of Valentine Farm, a community of free and runaway black people in Indiana. John is fair skinned and considered white. When he met Gloria, she was still a slave working on an indigo plantation. He bought her freedom and they married soon after. After the birth of their children, they decided to flee the racist violence of the South. They started growing corn in Indiana. When a sick runaway slave showed up at his door, John Valentine became his people's advocate and opened his farm to liberate black farmers, refugees and activists. Here Cora is recovering after Royal rescued her from Ridgeway. The farm is eventually destroyed by a mob of white settlers, but they flee to Oklahoma with their family.

Sibylle and Molly

A mother and her 10-year-old daughter, Sybil and Molly, are runaway slaves. They live on the Valentine farm in a cabin shared by Cora and are a paragon of mother-daughter love for Cora. All three have close and loving relationships.

Mingo

He is an ex-slave seeking political power on the Valentine farm. As a slave, he rented out to his master on weekends to earn wages, eventually buying his entire family's freedom. In Valentine, he pleads for the community to stop taking in refugees and move towards promoting black people without further provocation by white racism.

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Elias Lander

A free black man, Lander was born in Boston to a wealthy white lawyer and his black wife. Extremely intelligent, Lander became the first black student at an elite white university. After his education, he became a speaker for the abolitionist cause. Lander is gunned down by the white mob while giving a speech about the importance of community at the Valentine farm.

Olli

The last person Cora meets on her journey in the novel is a friendly black man traveling west as part of a mixed-race caravan. Cora meets him after he exits the Underground Railroad after fleeing the Valentine farm in Indiana. Ollie offers Cora dinner and a trip to St. Louis, and then to California, which she accepts and completes the novel.

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