The Underground Railroad

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Terrance Randall Character Analysis

Terrance is one of the two Randall brothers, each of whom controls half of Randall plantation. Terrance is far more sadistic than his brother, James, choosing to frequently torture and sexually abuse enslaved people. After James dies, Terrance takes over both halves of the plantation. Months after Cora escapes from Randall, Terrance dies of heart failure in a New Orleans brothel. The narrator implies that Terrance’s frustration over his inability to capture Cora was a significant factor that led to his death.

Terrance Randall Quotes in The Underground Railroad

The The Underground Railroad quotes below are all either spoken by Terrance Randall or refer to Terrance Randall. 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 6: North Carolina Quotes

Cora rarely thought of the boy she had killed. She did not need to defend her actions in the woods that night; no one had the right to call her to account. Terrance Randall provided a model for a mind that could conceive of North Carolina’s new system, but the scale of the violence was hard to settle in her head. Fear drove these people, even more than cotton money. The shadow of the black hand that will return what has been given. It occurred to her one night that she was one of the vengeful monsters they were scared of: She had killed a white boy. She might kill one of them next. And because of that fear, they erected a new scaffolding of oppression on the cruel foundation laid hundreds of years before. That was Sea Island cotton the slaver had ordered for his rows, but scattered among the seeds were those of violence and death, and that crop grew fast. The whites were right to be afraid. One day the system would collapse in blood.

Related Characters: Cora (aka Bessie), Terrance Randall
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:

Confined to the attic, Cora is forced to spend many hours without any distraction or human interaction, an experience that forces her to reflect on her memories and concoct fantasies (and nightmares) about the future. While she spends a lot of time turning over the memories of her escape in her mind, she doesn’t often think about the 12-year-old boy she killed during the conflict with the hog hunters. Her experiences since running away have illuminated for her the extent to which she is a manifestation of white people’s greatest fears, and also that it is this fear—even more than economic incentives—that fuels the system of slavery.

This passage explores the way in which this fear both empowers and disempowers Cora and other black people who choose to rebel. On one hand, Cora realizes that white people consider her to be a threat, a fact that emboldens her and convinces her that one day “the system would collapse in blood.” Slavery and white supremacy are not inevitable—they are actually far more fragile than white people make it appear. However, in a more immediate sense, white people react to rebellion with increased brutality, “a new scaffolding of oppression.” This places those who rebel in a difficult position, as they know that not only do they risk their own punishment, but they also risk other vulnerable people being punished in their stead.

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Terrance Randall Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Terrance Randall appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Georgia
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...Randall, who runs Cora’s half of the plantation, is rather reserved, but his younger brother, Terrance, is aggressively cruel. There are no feast days permitted on Terrance’s half. Where James is... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...crowd. The slaves step back and Jockey greets the brothers as “Master James” and “Master Terrance.” Terrance says he doesn’t want to disturb them, but that they heard the music and... (full context)
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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
Terrance says he remembers James telling him about an enslaved boy on James’ half of the... (full context)
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Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
...Two weeks have passed since Jockey’s birthday, and Cora’s face has still not healed. Although Terrance’s blows to her face were bad, the whipping she received the next day was much... (full context)
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Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...her head. Nag worries about whether it would be worse for Cora to hide during Terrance’s visit the next day, or appear and be visibly sick. James has fallen ill and... (full context)
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Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...is Cora’s “inheritance.” Back in the present, Cora watches over her garden in the darkness. Terrance’s visit the next day is mostly uneventful. Cora tries to hide from him in the... (full context)
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
The fact that Terrance is taking over the entire plantation seems as good a reason as any to attempt... (full context)
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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
While Big Anthony burns, Terrance addresses the slaves, explaining that the plantation will now function as one whole, rather than... (full context)
Chapter 6: North Carolina
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...the cotton fields. Cora spends much of her time imagining either the “ornate hell” that Terrance will engineer if she is captured and brought to him, or else the life she... (full context)
Chapter 8: Tennessee
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Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
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...adds that once they catch Nelson, Cora will be returned to Randall. Ridgeway clearly dislikes Terrance, and tells Cora that he killed Lovey by hanging her from a metal hook through... (full context)
Chapter 10: Indiana
Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Brutality and Violation Theme Icon
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...where so many of her other friends have been killed. Sam then tells Cora that Terrance is dead. He had grown obsessed with finding Cora and brutally punished the enslaved people... (full context)
Family, Heritage, and Home Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
History, Myth, and Fantasy Theme Icon
...The night before, Cora let Royal kiss her. She confesses that she’s been thinking about Terrance; she knows that the enslaved population will be sold off and worries that a relative... (full context)