read and answer questions

What to read

Before completing this assignment, you should have read and annotated pages 83-131 in The Underground Railroad. You should have also read textbook chapters on reading fiction (available here:

What to submit

You will review these passages that I have copied here for you (feel free to pull them up in your own book). Then, type out your response to all 10 questions, five questions per passage.

Passage 1

Please review this passage from page 89.

Bessie?
Good evening, Miss Lucy, Bessie said.
It was rare Miss Lucy stayed this late on a Friday. Most proctors disappeared at six oclock. To hear the girls from the other dormitories tell it, Miss Lucys diligence put her colleagues to shame. To be sure, Bessie had benefited from her advice many times. She admired the way her clothes were always so crisp and fit just so. Miss Lucy wore her hair in a bun and the thin metal of her eyeglasses lent her a severe aspect, but her quick smile told the story of the woman beneath.
How are things? Miss Lucy asked.
Think Im gonna spend a quiet night in the quarter, Miss Lucy, Bessie said.
Dormitory, Bessie. Not quarter.
Yes, Miss Lucy.
Going to, not gonna
I am working on it.
And making splendid progress! Miss Lucy patted Bessies arm. I want to talk to you Monday morning before you head out for work.
Anything wrong, Miss Lucy?
Nothing at all, Bessie. Well talk then. She gave a little bow and walked to the office. Bowing to a colored girl (Whitehead 89)

Please answer all of these questions:

  1. How should we read the dialogue in this scene?
  2. How does the dialogue characterize Bessie and Miss Lucy?
  3. Is the description of Miss Lucy an objective description, or from someones point of
    view? If the description of Miss Lucy was omitted, would you read her character differently?
  4. To what extent does this interaction help influence Coras decision to stay in South
    Carolina?
  5. Why do you think Miss Lucy insist that Bessie use the word dormitory rather than quarter? Why do you think that Bessie chose the word quarter, and how did she mean it? Why was she corrected?

Passage 2

Please review this passage from page.113

“The physical examination was not as extensive as the first. He consulted the records from her previous visit and added his own notes on blue paper. In between he asked her about dormitory life. Sounds efficient, Dr. Stevens said. He declared the museum work an
intriguing public service. After she dressed, Dr. Stevens pulled over a wooden stool. His manner remained light as he said,
Youve had intimate relations. Have you considered birth control?

He smiled. South Carolina was in the midst of a large public health program, Dr. Stevens explained, to educate folks about a new surgical technique wherein the tubes inside a woman were severed to prevent the growth of a baby. The procedure was simple, permanent, and without risk. The new hospital was specially equipped, and Dr. Stevens himself had studied under the man who pioneered the technique, which had been perfected on the colored inmates of a Boston asylum. Teaching the surgery to local doctors and offering its gift to the colored population was part of the reason he was hired.
What if I dont want to?
The choice is yours, of course, the doctor said. As of this week, it is mandatory for some in the state. Colored women who have already birthed more than two children, in the name of population control. Imbeciles and the otherwise mentally unfit, for obvious reasons. Habitual criminals. But that doesnt apply to you, Bessie. Those are women who already have enough burdens. This is just a chance for you to take control over your own destiny. (Whitehead 113)

Please answer all of these questions:

6. How do you think we should we read the dialogue in this scene? How did you read it? Note what you learned about dialogue in the textbook reading to highlight your understanding of dialogue.

7. How does this passage characterize Stevens (think about his tone)?

8. What does Coras statement What if I dont want to? say about her character? (think about the tone here as well)

9. Do you think there is more going on than what is being said aloud? If so, what?

10. What does the irony of Cora being able to choose her own destiny add to the passage and novel as a whole? Do you find it ironic or not?