The Underground Railroad

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Homer Character Analysis

Homer is a young black boy who is part of Ridgeway’s gang. Ridgeway purchased him for $5 before buying his freedom, but Homer still chooses to stay with Ridgeway and even voluntarily chains himself to Ridgeway’s wagon at night. Cora is baffled by Homer, who seems to feel no sense of solidarity with other black people and happily chooses to follow Ridgway around, watching him capture, brutalize, and murder runaways. As Ridgway’s book-keeper, Homer maintains meticulous notes on Ridgway’s profits and losses, and seems to have been brainwashed into viewing life in purely economic terms.

Homer Quotes in The Underground Railroad

The The Underground Railroad quotes below are all either spoken by Homer or refer to Homer. 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 10: Indiana Quotes

Seeing them all in one room, Cora got an idea of how large they were for the first time. There were people she'd never seen before, like the mischievous little boy who winked at her when their eyes met. Strangers but family, cousins but never introduced. She was surrounded by men and women who'd been born in Africa, or born in chains, who had freed themselves or escaped. Branded, beaten, raped. Now they were here. They were free and black and stewards of their own fates. It made her shiver.

Related Characters: Cora (aka Bessie), Homer
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

The residents of Valentine have gathered for a debate at which Elijah Lander and Mingo will speak about the future of the farm. It is the first time that Cora has seen all the residents in the same place at the same time, and she is astonished by the community, which in some ways functions as a large and mutually supportive family. This passage functions as a meditation not only about Valentine itself, but also about the entire population of black people who live in America. As Lander will explore in his speech, there is little that actually connects the experiences of all black people in the United States—they originate from many different districts and tribes of the African continent, and many (such as John) are categorized as black even when they have mostly white ancestry.

The mention of the little black boy winking—who, unbeknownst to Cora, is actually Homer—is a reminder that not all black people choose to exist in solidarity with one another. However, it is inescapably true that all black people are united by the condition of being labeled “black” in America and by the ensuing oppression and subjugation they are forced to experience. At the same time, it is not just this negative experience that unites black people in the country—it is also their dream of freedom and their desire to be “stewards of their own fates.” It is this sense of mutual fantasy and solidarity that makes possible a positive future for black people against all odds.

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Homer Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Homer appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: North Carolina
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...Cora she doesn’t need to be afraid because she’s going “home.” A 10-year-old black boy (Homer) drives a wagon up, a sight Cora finds bizarre and “fantastical.” Fiona remarks that in... (full context)
Chapter 8: Tennessee
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
...Cora and Jasper, Ridgeway, his accomplice Boseman (with the necklace of shriveled ears), and 10-year-old Homer. Although Homer is so young, he has the mannerisms of an “elderly house slave.” He... (full context)
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...enough to make it worth the peace and quiet that would come from shooting him. Homer checks the records and says: “He’s right.” The wildfire had blazed for miles around, leaving... (full context)
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...since North Carolina, and the townspeople wear the fine clothes of “settlers, not the settled.” Homer gives Cora a dark blue dress, unlocking her chains so she can put it on.... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...don’t like Tennessee and would rather be home. The men already know Ridgeway’s name. Suddenly Homer throws a lantern, which causes a scuffle. Boseman is shot, and Cora strangles Ridgeway with... (full context)
Chapter 10: Indiana
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...died of heart failure in a brothel in New Orleans. Ridgeway, meanwhile, is a laughingstock. Homer rescued him after the confrontation with Royal, and the two ran off together, their reputation... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...out for Molly, and at this moment Ridgeway grabs hold of her. He is with Homer, who Cora now realizes was in attendance during the speeches. Homer tells Ridgeway that he... (full context)
Chapter 12: The North
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
...stopped running,” and “SHE WAS NEVER PROPERTY.” The narrator explains that Cora leads Ridgeway and Homer to the underground railroad station. Back on Valentine, she fought and kicked Ridgeway while the... (full context)
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
As Ridgeway lies in agonizing pain, he calls for Homer and asks him to write something down in his journal. Ridgeway begins to make grandiose... (full context)