The Underground Railroad

Martin Wells is a station agent for the underground railroad in North Carolina. He became involved with anti-slavery efforts through his father, Donald. He is married to Ethel and harbors Cora in his attic. Although Martin is kind to Cora and helps her even after his railroad station was supposed to have closed, he is timid and reluctant to transport Cora to the next station. He is stoned to death by his fellow townspeople after Cora is discovered.

Martin Wells Quotes in The Underground Railroad

The The Underground Railroad quotes below are all either spoken by Martin Wells or refer to Martin Wells. 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Doubleday edition of The Underground Railroad published in 2016.
Chapter 8: Tennessee Quotes

At the auction block they tallied the souls purchased at each auction, and on the plantations the overseers preserved the names of workers in rows of tight cursive. Every name an asset, breathing capital, profit made flesh. The peculiar institution made Cora into a maker of lists as well. In her inventory of loss people were not reduced to sums but multiplied by their kindnesses. People she had loved, people who had helped her. The Hob women, Lovey, Martin and Ethel, Fletcher. The ones who disappeared: Caesar and Sam and Lumbly.

Related Symbols: Hob
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:
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Martin Wells Character Timeline in The Underground Railroad

The timeline below shows where the character Martin Wells appears in The Underground Railroad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6: North Carolina
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
...that she is completely trapped again. She cries herself to sleep until the station agent, Martin Wells, wakes her. He tells Cora that she is not supposed to be there and... (full context)
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Endurance vs. Rebellion Theme Icon
Death and Freedom Theme Icon
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Martin lifts the tarpaulin and tells Cora that he wants her to see something. It is... (full context)
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
...militias and patrollers lynched three times that number of black people in revenge. One night, Martin visits Cora, speaking to her in a whisper because his neighbor’s son is a night... (full context)
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...cotton; Cora remarks that she has never seen a white person pick cotton before, and Martin replies that, until he moved to North Carolina, he’d never seen “a mob rip a... (full context)
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...and neighbors. Patrollers have the right to conduct random inspections on any person’s home, and Martin’s house was searched twice before Cora arrived. Martin apologizes for Ethel’s behavior, telling Cora that... (full context)
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...grows thin from lack of food and suffers from violent nightmares. At first Cora asks Martin regularly if there is any news from the underground railroad, but after a few months... (full context)
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...reason why Fiona doesn’t notice is because a friend of hers happens to be visiting. Martin and Ethel fight constantly, and Cora reasons that the only reason Ethel hasn’t turned her... (full context)
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Value, Ownership, and Commodification Theme Icon
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...the prowl. Cora huddles in the corner of the attic when the riders arrive at Martin’s house. She listens to the riders speak politely with Martin and Ethel before asking to... (full context)
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...very ill and violently throws up. Ethel cares for her, adopting a newly gentle attitude. Martin and Ethel tell Fiona not to come to work for a few days, knowing that... (full context)
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Cora looks at Fiona and is astonished by how young she is. Martin says to Fiona, “We treated you nice,” and Fiona replies that they have a “queer... (full context)
Chapter 7: Ethel
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By the time Ethel marries Martin, she has lost hope in happiness. She has little interest in men and hates sex,... (full context)