Character List and Analysis
The son of a blacksmith, Ridgeway refused to take up his father’s business and became a slave catcher at age 14. Even at that age he was a burly man, six-and-a-half feet tall. Over the years, he gained a reputation as one of the best slave catchers in the business. He was first hired by the Randall plantation to catch Cora’s mother, Mabel, but he failed to find Mabel and became obsessed with that failure. When Cora escapes, Ridgeway is all the more determined to catch her as penance for not catching her mother. Ridgeway seems to be largely devoid of conscience: Because he doesn’t want to think of slaves as human beings, he refers to the slaves he captures with the pronoun “it” instead of “he” or “she.” But he also has a surprisingly human side, as demonstrated by his affection for Homer, a young black boy who Ridgeway buys and then immediately sets free. Homer insists on staying with Ridgeway, and the two become unlikely partners. They capture Caesar in South Carolina and Cora in North Carolina. While Ridgeway is traveling through Tennessee with Cora, he and his crew are attacked by a group of underground railroad workers, who rescue Cora. After this attack, Ridgeway’s reputation is damaged. Set on revenge, he tracks Cora to Indiana and captures her again. She leads him to an abandoned underground railroad station and knocks him down the stairs, leaving him with two broken legs and a bleeding head. As Cora escapes down the abandoned tunnel, Ridgeway dictates philosophical thoughts for Homer to record.