The whip represents the physical abuse of slavery and the psychological terror that enslaved people experienced from living in such horrible conditions. While many characters in the novel use weapons and inflict physical harm on one another, the whip is ultimately used only by white people for abuse and never for self-defense. Whipping thus represents the incredible imbalance of power between white and black people in the Antebellum South. White men who carry the whip, such as Tom Weylin and Evan Fowler, are symbolically past the hope of learning to regard black people as equals rather than objects or animals.
The disproportionate ability of white people to use the whip to enact violence against black people increases the emotional cost of these blows. While the wounds of whip lashes are already physically extensive, the fear of being whipped adds a powerful emotional component to the control of the enslaved characters at the Weylin plantation. Dana undergoes several whippings and sees how the constant threat of physical pain could push people into accepting the less extreme yet still damaging drudgery of slavery in order to avoid the physical abuse that the whip threatens. After being whipped for attempting to run away, Dana wonders if she has the strength to ever chase her freedom again, knowing the pain that the whip brings. Spending one day in the field, Dana learns the terror of the overseer who follows her with the whip and lashes out no matter how fast Dana is working. The whip gives the white masters complete control over the slaves and restrains their mental freedom as well as harming them physically.
The Whip Quotes in Kindred
I had seen people beaten on television and in the movies. I had seen the too-red blood substitute streaked across their backs and heard their well-rehearsed screams. But I hadn't lain nearby and smelled their sweat or heard them pleading and praying, shamed before their families and themselves. I was probably less prepared for the reality than the child crying not far from me. In fact, she and I were reacting very much alike.
His father wasn't the monster he could have been with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn't a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society said were legal and proper. But I had seen no particular fairness in him. He did as he pleased. If you told him he wasn't being fair, he would whip you for talking back.