Normal In Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad And Saunders’ Sticks Essay Sample For College


Normal can be considered to be an occurrence or behavior that conforms to accepted rules. Humans repeat patterns of behavior which in many ways makes them predictable. This phenomenon is apparent when characters in Sticks by George Saunders and The Underground Railway by Colson Whitehead are examined. Some are very easy to predict in that one occurrence indeed leads to the other. Nonetheless, most of the events surrounding and affecting the characters in the books can be described as normal. However, these two books have different ideologies on what should be described as ordinary. Fundamentally, they relay their perspectives regarding normalcy in opposite directions, which makes the books adventurous, thought-provoking, and unhappy to read.


In The Underground Railway, Whitehead tries to make the reader see the brutality one person can impose on another. The novel discusses this issue through the lens of slavery and racism. There is a powerful depiction of how people who worked on the plantations in Georgia were brutally handled and bullied. The author creates an atmosphere full of a lack of conscience, visible through characters such as Cora, the protagonist. Cora underwent suffering at the hands of a young 15-year-old boy. She becomes a wanted fugitive after she kills the boy. With her new friend, they run through a railroad to escape possible execution (Whitehead 12). Her escape from justice marks the beginning of her tribulations. In this case, Cora lacks compassion, and her action to kill is depicted as justified and hence normal.

Whitehead also characterizes human torture as a regular thing, provided one happened to work in the plantation field as a slave. Slavery is an old method of control, in which escape would only come through volunteer heroes with a liberal mindset to start a revolution. Therefore, the characters’ mistreatment in the plantations is featured as a very usual thing. Surprisingly, despite Cora being a murderer, no one wanted her to go back to the plantation (Whitehead 12). This changed the face value of ‘normal’ and helped Cora to escape mistreatment. Therefore, gaining compassion was greatly fueled, not by her killing but by the torture and suffering she experienced in Georgian plantations.

Cora is constantly haunted by the traumatic experience of rape. The novel suggests that rape was a stepping stone toward Cora gaining self-independence from the harsh environment she called home. In chapter two, slavery is depicted as a stressful and traumatic experience, but the only way to escape is to gain compassion. However, there were some imposed risks for the escape to be successful. All the slaves had to conform to a uniform tactic that would make the mission successful. Runaway slaves were hunted down by slave hunters and slave masters using public cooperation in apprehension as a form of motivation. Freed blacks, American Indians, and individuals from a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds joined together to assist in searching for escapees.

In her attempt to escape from slavery, Cora carried Caesar and Lovey with her, not knowing that the mission involving more than two people would put them at risk (whitehead 12). In this case, Cora is compassionate about helping others when she seems to be the one in need of compassion herself. She has a kind heart that minds others, too, even if it puts her life in danger. For example, she knew she was hunted for murder but still managed to carry two more people to the underground railway to seek refuge. Cora, therefore, despite being in slavery, which was a normal state of life during that time, wanted to show compassion to her fellow slaves by helping them escape.

However, the above contrasts how normalcy is treated in Sticks. In the novel, there is an association of the ordinary with goodness and accountability for better remembrance. The author’s activities with his father were very friendly and could have one looking forward to another day. Despite his father’s harsh treatment of his children, he would treat them compassionately to ensure they lived comfortable life. The places they could visit were to bring good memories in the future, especially when one sits back to think about the past life and events. In the occurrences in this novel, there is no instance of brutal treatment.

On the contrary, rewards of different kinds appreciate humanity, and incentives of different forms are given (Saunders 17). There is no point one can even tempted to think about moving out of this kind of home or escaping to seek asylum because the treatment they receive is good. At some point, the author carried out of their home and formed his life with a wife and kids, but still afforded to think back. He could walk his mind over his past and smile about how amazing his father was and what he did to ensure his child had a comfortable life.

These two instances vividly describe how normal in one example can ultimately be different from the other. The Underground Railway integrated what is considered normal in an inconsiderate manner. The reader’s speculation would have in mind that some humans are inconsiderate of humanity. It shows that this might have been the origin of racism had the novel been written based on a true story. It could even bring one to tears, knowing that this might be the reason a relative has an upper and lower limb amputation. It can be a source of hatred due to the rage and anger that develops afterward when seeing an individual sinking into suffering and depression. The ideology in the novel Sticks, on the other hand, gives an optimistic view. It lifts one into a very high hope for tomorrow.

The chances of having a better tomorrow are more elevated, and people will always look up to it. In this novel, man is treated with kindness. Humanity is appreciated, especially in the depicted calendar occasions like the Halloween, Christmas Day, and birthday seasons. Each experience was treated well and was worth remembrance. After his dad’s death, the author could still afford to go back to his roots to see whether the pole was still there.

A notable factor about Saunders’s work is that his dad had a unique way of appreciating every little thing. Despite being an authoritarian, he still exercised compassion for his children. For example, his father could buy cupcakes on their birthdays but didn’t have any space for ice cream. According to Sunders, there was a pole that his father used in dressing for the occasion (Saunders 23). On each occasion, he had the pole dressed up to suit the happenings. It symbolized appreciation of humanity and Good’s creative art. Human life was an incredible thing that never deserved underestimation. His father created good memories for the author that was worth remembering. Thus, he embraced all occasions by dressing his pole in accordance until the event was done.

Therefore, in the Underground Railway, normalcy is a pace set for the author to always know how to treat people. Humanity is a section to be viewed from a clean and sober perspective. Memories are worth remembrance, especially when the moments are good. The author’s father was also of easy temperament, according to the book outline. He could admit his errors and be apologetic when necessary. This father taught his children an excellent way to make peace with people and appreciate special occasions like birthdays; hence, a good lesson worthwhile. He created memories from events so that his children would remember him even after they forgot how his voice sounded.


The two novels have different opinions about what should be considered normal. The Underground Railway brings out a pessimist lifestyle full of no hope because of what people went through, such that the thought of the next day would bring depression. It also depicts a kind of civil defiance adopted by different people from different social classes of life. On the other hand, Sticks is composed in a manner that has individuals becoming more hopeful for a better tomorrow. The slaves accept their situation and work in earnest while plotting an escape with anticipation of the next day bringing better experiences different from what they are currently experiencing. It is, therefore, crucial that everyone lives in optimism than pessimism.

Works Cited

Saunders, George, and Nancy Loeber. Sticks., 2017. Print.

Whitehead, Colson. Underground Railroad. Albin Michel, 2017.

“Fast Food Nation”: The Development Of The Food Industry In The USA

In chapters 5-10, Eric Schlosser addresses a range of important issues that surround the development of the food industry in the United States of America. The first central idea revolves around the intense industrialization of the food industry that has led to the creation of large corporations holding the majority of the market. Schlosser explains this situation through the prism of regular people from the perspectives of farmers engaged in the production of meat. He recalls the original anti-trust initiatives of the American government that aimed at preventing such a development. However, since the 1980s, corporations have resumed their conquest of the industry, leaving little or no space for regular farmers. He mentions that “the patterns of land ownership in the American West resemble those of rural England” (Schlosser 46). This idea implies that farmers are left in the position of serving the corporations that wield actual power with littler personal gains. This is a strong and thought-provoking message regarding the present issue.

In fact, the struggle of the regular people in the face of the new age of corporate fast-food domination is another key theme of the author’s discussion. Schlosser devotes much attention to the struggle of meat-farming workers who endure serious physical and mental challenges in their line of duty. The psychological aspect of the job receives sufficient coverage, as Schlosser talks about the people whose daily tasks include killing a high number of living beings. Furthermore, those whose physical and mental health take a hit are discouraged from contacting the officials in order to keep matters outside of the public’s attention. As a result, society sees the embellished façade of the fast-food industry, which is built non only on the corpses of the animals but also with the blood and sweat of regular people who work for the profits of corporations. Or, as Schlosser calls them, “cogs in the great packing machines” (57). This line perfectly summarizes the role to which regular workers’ efforts have been reduced by the new age of the food industry.

Work Cited

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Mariner Books, 2012.

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery Review

The Lottery, first published in 1948, remains to be one of the most read stories in American literature. The story revolves around a small village in New England where all the members hold a lottery annually and the person picked is murdered. Shirley Jackson’s main aim of writing the tale was to present a strong argument against the rituals and traditions. Similarly, the lottery’s aim was to examine the dangers of following traditions and the accompanying rituals blindly.

Jackson utilized contrasts, which entailed keeping the audience’s expectations at odds with the events of the story, to achieve its direful effect. For instance, the violence presented in the conclusion contrasts sharply with the beautiful setting of flowers “blossoming profusely” and the grass “richly green” highlighted in preceding chapters (Jackson 1). Ideally, The Lottery by Shirley argues that tradition without justification could be fatal, especially when it becomes normalized in society.

The lottery has been in existence for many years with each event concluding with a violent murder. Before the reader gets to know the kind of lottery the villagers are undertaking, they are treated to preparations that appear harmless. The villagers even appointed authoritative figures to lead the ceremony. The figures such as Old Man Warner and Summers rely on the past chaos to demonstrate why rituals are an important means of maintaining law and order.

The children are seen gathering stones in the town square that will be used to shatter another person’s life (Scott 55). The tradition, according to Jackson, is a way of linking families and generations. However, Jacksons seems to question the reverence that people have for rituals. She argues that people have little knowledge about the origin of the lottery, yet they are fully committed to it. “People are willing to use slips of paper instead of woodchips” (Jackson 3). One would easily wonder why the villagers are willing to use a new box but reluctant to modify or abandon the tradition.

The people’s blind acceptance of the lottery has enabled ritual killing to be part of their village. As evidenced in the story, the villagers do not have the power to change or even attempt to transform, yet nobody is coercing them into keeping things the same. For instance, the Old Man Warner is completely faithful to the rituals and worries that the villagers might return to the primitive old days if they fail to hold the lottery.

The most surprising thing, as explicated by Jackson, is that the villagers easily kill someone whenever they are required to. However, Simonetti et al. cautioned in their study that following traditions blindly end up depriving people of their happiness (152). The problem is that those who support such traditions do not stop to consider its consequences. For example, Old Man Warner has participated in the lottery for 77 years and describes those who banish the ritual as “Pack of young fools,” (Jackson 191). In essence, Warner does not find anything terrible with the tradition.

The traditions seem to have lost meaning and following them blindly can make otherwise normal individuals to act abnormally without thinking. The villagers do not have a specific reason for following the tradition apart from the fact that it is held to kill someone. This means that if they take time to assess their actions, they will start questioning why they are killing these people. However, nobody takes time to question the origin of the tradition and why they preserve it. As Nugraha and Sutiono noted in their study, it is good for people to cherish their past, but they must refrain from carrying them as a burden into the future (35).

Unfortunately, as for the villagers, tradition is a reason enough and they have all the justification they want. In fact, the Old Man Warner still believes in primal purpose of the lottery—to improve crop production. This explains why he complains that the lottery “is not the way it used to be—people aint the way they used to be” (Jackson 69). This is a clear indication that the tradition has lost meaning but Warner does not believe in change.

The villagers, as highlighted in the story, treat the lottery with veiled appreciation and courteousness. The mood surrounding the activities portrays feelings of anxiety and anticipation towards the game. In fact, the villagers joke, smile, and engage in small talk, “speaking of planting and rain” before the event starts (Jackson 1). However, deep down the members have underlying feelings of fear towards what the lottery stands for—sacrifice and death for those selected.

The problem is that no one was willing to speak against the tradition. Simonetti et al. argued that people prefer to follow the traditions because challenging them threatens their status and relationships with the community members (153). As a matter of fact, Old Man Warner’s proclamations about why the lottery cannot be banished did not even provoke a counterstatement from other members. He maintains that “there’s always been a lottery” which explains why the ceremony is a force beyond reason (Jackson 263). Interestingly, the villagers secretly like it and does not need to be reminded why they should keep holding the lottery.

The townspeople persecute others randomly just for having selected the wrong piece of paper from the box. The lottery is designed to ensure all the members have equal opportunity of becoming victims, including children. No family is exempted from the ritual—someone new is selected and killed every year. The lottery was completely normalized in the society considering the ease with which the villagers turn against the victim.

For instance, Tessie Hutchison lost her identity the moment she selected the marked paper. Her friends and family were among the first people who participated in killing her. She immediately became invisible to them all in the name of the preserving the tradition. On her part, Tessie was willing to participate every year until her name was drawn, she suddenly claimed that “the lottery isn’t fair (Jackson 300). It is now that Tessie realizes she has been following the tradition without justification, but her fate had already been sealed.

In conclusion, the villagers continue harming each other in the name of following traditions. The people’s actions tend to contrast the significance of tradition as they just depict the negative side of traditions by killing. People such as Old Man Warner are reluctant to change despite the destructive nature of the tradition. He believes that abandoning the ceremonies will amount to trouble and loss of civilization. However, it is important to note that people were not inherently cruel; it is the unthinking adherence to their ritual that primarily caused their cruelty.

Works Cited

Jackson, Shirley. The lottery. Harvard University Press, 2013.

Nugraha, Intan Siti, and Sutiono Mahdi. “Transitivity System on Building Character of Mr. Summers in The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.” Celtic: A Journal of Culture, English Language Teaching, Literature and Linguistics 7.1 (2020): 35-43.

Scott, Linda. “Dark Town: Reimagining dangerous tradition, group ritual and brutal betrayal.” (2019).

Simonetti, I., et al. “When traditions become dangerous: Intestinal perforation from unusual foreign body—Case report and short literature review.” European journal of radiology open 6 (2019): 152-155.

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