The Longest Memory


Fred D’Aguiar

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The Longest Memory: Chapter 4: Cook Summary & Analysis

Cook relates her experience with the overseer, Sanders Senior. Although she wanted to die after he raped her, she soon found love and peace through her relationship with Whitechapel, whom she feels has saved her life. She believes that he is truly extraordinary, for other men would have abandoned her after learning what happened to her. She is also impressed by the respect that Mr. Whitechapel demonstrates toward Whitechapel, and the fact that her husband succeeded in punishing Sanders for his rape, forcing him to apologize and to pay a fine.
Part of Cook’s admiration for her husband derives from the sense of relative power and protection that Whitechapel gives her, as he is able to defend his rights and obtain some form of justice. She has also discovered that she does not need to be seen as a passive victim (for example, accepting that a man would leave her after she has been raped) but, rather, that she can expect fairness and devotion even in the midst of slavery.
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Initially, Cook thought Whitechapel was too old for her, but now she feels deeply loved and is grateful that Whitechapel has put the rape behind them, making her feel that she is fully his wife and not merely a rape victim. At first, she did not believe in his promises of love until death, since only a free man could make such a promise, but she has learned to trust him fully and believe that he will always stay by her side.
Cook’s surprise at Whitechapel’s actions shows how unique and precious their relationship is, as it defies the very oppression of slavery, allowing them to build an intimate, relatively safe environment in a greater context of instability and violence. However, Chapel’s death will later show that even a family member’s unlimited love has limited power over an inherently cruel system.
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