The Underground Railroad

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Dr. Aloysius Stevens Character Analysis

Dr. Stevens is another doctor who examines Cora. Prior to his employment in South Carolina, he was a medical student in Boston, where he was involved with the “body trade” of stealing corpses for research. During this time, Stevens felt out-of-place among medical students due to his poor Irish background. He condemns racism and even feels a sense of affinity with black people, although he never admits this out loud and becomes complicit with the commodification and exploitation of black people that takes place through the medical industry.

Dr. Aloysius Stevens Quotes in The Underground Railroad

The The Underground Railroad quotes below are all either spoken by Dr. Aloysius Stevens or refer to Dr. Aloysius Stevens. 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 4: South Carolina Quotes

Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood. With the surgeries that Dr. Stevens described, Cora thought, the whites had begun stealing futures in earnest. Cut you open and rip them out, dripping. Because that's what you do when you take away someone's babies––steal their future. Torture them as much as you can when

they are on this earth, then take away the hope that one day their people will have it better.

Related Characters: Dr. Aloysius Stevens (speaker), Cora (aka Bessie)
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

At the examination conducted by Dr. Stevens, he notes that Cora has had sexual relations and he asks if she has considered being sterilized, adding that, for many black women, sterilization is mandatory. Cora is horrified at having discovered the dark secret beneath life in South Carolina. To her, Dr. Stevens’ words about sterilization fit within the broader “engine” of life in America, which is powered by violence against and exploitation of nonwhite people. Cora’s use of the word “engine” is significant, as it underlines the connection between white supremacy and capitalist industrialism. Science and industry, which are often considered to be good and progressive, are in fact tools through which black people are tortured and killed.

This passage also identifies a crucial way in which white supremacy destroys not only a present generation of the black population, but their hope for the future, as well. Through the traumatic separation of families under slavery and forced sterilization programs, black people were robbed even of the hope that one day future generations might experience freedom for themselves.

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Dr. Aloysius Stevens Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Dr. Aloysius Stevens appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4: South Carolina
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...be used to understand “colored life.” Cora goes into an appointment with a new doctor, Dr. Stevens , who is kinder than Dr. Campbell. After the examination, Dr. Stevens asks if Cora... (full context)
Chapter 5: Stevens
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
A man named Aloysius Stevens works night shifts on fellowship at the Anatomy House of the Proctor Medical School in... (full context)