The Underground Railroad

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Ajarry Character Analysis

Ajarry is Cora’s grandmother and Mabel’s mother. She was born in Africa before being kidnapped and enslaved slave in America, where she is sold so many times that she comes to believe she is “cursed.” She has three husbands and five children, of which Mabel is the only one to survive. She is well-liked and respected on Randall, and this respect helps protect Mabel and Cora within the enslaved community until Ajarry’s death. She is the first owner of the garden, and she dies on Randall after suffering a brain hemorrhage while working in the field.

Ajarry Quotes in The Underground Railroad

The The Underground Railroad quotes below are all either spoken by Ajarry or refer to Ajarry. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Doubleday edition of The Underground Railroad published in 2016.
Chapter 1: Ajarry Quotes

She knew that the white man's scientists peered beneath things to understand how they worked. The movement of the stars across the night, the cooperation of humors in the blood. The temperature requirements for a healthy cotton harvest. Ajarry made a science of her own black body and accumulated observations… in America the quirk was that people were things.

Related Characters: Ajarry (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Cora’s grandmother Ajarry was born in Africa before being kidnapped and transported across the Atlantic to America. Once there, Ajarry is sold many times, and she gradually comes to learn about how enslaved people are valued. In this passage, the narrator compares this knowledge to the scientific research conducted by white scientists. In America, black people’s bodies are commodified, meaning they are turned into objects with which white people can make a profit. This is true in an obvious sense with slavery, but is also true in a less obvious sense when it comes to scientific research.

As the fields of human biology and medicine evolved during the 19th century, many experiments were conducted on black people by white scientists. White supremacy dictated that only white people were intelligent enough to become scientists, whereas black people were thought to be useful only as objects of study. However, this passage disproves this view—even without any formal education, Ajarry comes to understand the “science” of her own body and how she is assigned financial value. Ajarry herself is thus also a scientist, although her knowledge is not considered legitimate within the context of white supremacy.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Underground Railroad quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

To escape the boundary of the plantation was to escape the fundamental principles of your existence: impossible.

Related Characters: Ajarry
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

After being sold many times, Ajarry arrives on Randall where she remains until her death. To Ajarry, this death seemed inevitable, because the possibility of freedom was completely unimaginable to her. This is ironic, of course, as Ajarry is one of the only black characters in the novel who was actually born free and who began life with no knowledge of bondage at all. This quotation introduces the idea that enslavement destroys people’s possibilities in life, not only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and emotional one. It is beyond the imaginative capacity of many people to envision the transformation from enslavement to freedom—to do so is an act of madness, or fantasy.

Get the entire The Underground Railroad LitChart as a printable PDF.
The underground railroad.pdf.medium

Ajarry Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Ajarry appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Ajarry
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...the north, she says no; this refusal is related to the experiences of Cora’s grandmother, Ajarry. Ajarry was kidnapped from Africa as a child along with her father (Cora’s great grandfather),... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
Ajarry is sold so many times “you would thought she was cursed.” One of her masters... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
Ajarry has five children; two die of fever, one of blood poisoning, and one is killed... (full context)
Chapter 2: Georgia
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
With or without a feast, Cora spends every Sunday afternoon tending to her garden. Ajarry used to tend to it, before Randall plantation became as prosperous as it is now.... (full context)
Chapter 10: Indiana
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...almanac Royal has given her. By this point, she has told Royal all about Randall, Ajarry, Mabel, Blake and the doghouse, and the night she was raped. Royal comforted her, saying... (full context)
Chapter 11: Mabel
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...to eat a turnip from her garden. It is deliciously sweet. Mabel did not inherit Ajarry’s “perseverance,” but she did get the garden, “the most valuable land in all of Georgia.”... (full context)