The Longest Memory

by

Fred D’Aguiar

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Chapel, the son that Whitechapel raises as his own, is in fact the result of Sanders Senior’s rape of the young slave Cook. However, this parentage plays no role in the young boy’s life, since he ignores that Whitechapel is not his biological father. Chapel belongs to the category of slaves that Whitechapel identifies as rebellious and troublesome, as he distinguishes himself through his literary creativity, his moral principles, and his powerful desire to learn and grow. Moved by ideals of freedom and justice, he interrogates the world around him and dreams of escaping slavery for “paradise” in the North, which his love for Mr. Whitechapel’s daughter, Lydia, only strengthens. Despite his opposition to Whitechapel’s views about obedience, Chapel respects his father and takes pride in being his son, even if he is illegitimate. After an unsuccessful attempt to run away, Chapel dies as a result of Sanders Junior’s brutal two-hundred-lash whipping—a punishment Whitechapel accidentally brought about by revealing his son’s whereabouts to the plantation’s white authority figures.

Chapel Quotes in The Longest Memory

The The Longest Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Chapel or refer to Chapel. 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:
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Longest Memory published in 2017.
Remembering Quotes

The future is just more of the past waiting to happen. You do not want to know my past nor do you want to know my name for the simple reason that I have none and would have to make it up to please you. What my eyes say has never been true. All these years of my life are in my hands, not in these eyes or even in this head. I woke up one day […] and decided that from this day I had no name. I was just boy, mule, nigger, slave or whatever else anyone chose to call me.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1: Whitechapel Quotes

“My hand is not the whip son,” I said or imagined saying to him. He nodded to everything, then nothing. I had to have no name to match this look and the remainder of this life.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Worry cut those paths in my face. I let it happen because I didn’t feel it happening and only knew it was there when someone called me Sour-face one day and I looked in the mirror for evidence and found plenty staring back at me.

What was I before this? I forget. Did I smile? Laugh out loud? Don’t recall. To laugh. What is that? I think of a donkey braying. That is like a big laugh, involuntary, involving the whole body, noisy and long and toothy.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

I killed my son because I wanted him next to me when I died. Just as he had held his heavy mother weighted by death for me to listen to her last breath, he would hold my head to help my last words out.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel, Cook
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Protector of the worst fate of your people or any people. Is that what I have become? The master of my fate. No longer in need of control or supervision. One so accustomed to his existence that he impinges on his own freedom and can be left to his own devices. A master of his own slavery. Slave and enslaver. Model slave. Self-governing slave. Thinks freedom is death. Thinks paradise is the afterlife.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel
Related Symbols: Paradise
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel Quotes

“This inhuman display parading as discipline is a regular occurrence on these so-called ‘tightly run’ operations. I tell you all the evidence supports my belief that as a long-term measure it is a disaster. Contrary to their arguments, such rough handling provides rougher responses. The human spirit is passive in some but nature shows us that it is rebellious in most.”

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel, Sanders Junior, Plantation Owners
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

“Africans may be our inferiors, but they exhibit the same qualities we possess, even if they are merely imitating us. Their management is best exemplified by an approach that treats them first and foremost as subjects of God, though blessed with lesser faculties, and therefore suited to the trade of slavery.”

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel, Sanders Junior
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6: Plantation Owners Quotes

“Whitechapel, you even got a mention in The Virginian.”

“The death of one slave does not make me one of you.”

“True, Whitechapel, true, it does not; it makes you a fool.”

“And, after all you’ve said, a hypocrite too. ‘The slaves have rights as humans; they are not just tools.’”

“What about this? ‘Show them respect and they’ll work hard.’”

“‘They may be inferior but they’re people like us.’ Lost your tongue, Whitechapel?”

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Plantation Owners (speaker), Chapel
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Your policy of a judicious whip failed to save him. There is only one whip, it eats flesh.

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel, Plantation Owners
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

“How could your Whitechapel watch and not intervene?”

“He lost a son in deference to authority.”

“Name your price. That slave of yours is a slaver’s dream.”

“He’s still not for sale.”

“He deserves your family name.”

“Well said indeed.”

“If he were white he’d still be rare.”

“Let’s drink a toast. To Whitechapel and to his slave.”

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Plantation Owners (speaker), Whitechapel, Chapel, Sanders Junior
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8: Cook Quotes

You would hold up your glorious life as an example of the slave who has done all the proper things to survive and earn the respect of the master and overseer.

I can hear you, my husband. Your voice is strong and clear but without the strength and clarity of the voice of my son as he lifts word after word from the pages of a book.

Related Characters: Cook (speaker), Whitechapel, Chapel, Lydia
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9: Lydia Quotes

“By teaching little Whitechapel to read and write when he can never use it you have done him the gravest injustice.” I want to reply that a law which says a slave should not read and write is unjust. But I look at my feet and nod when he enquires whether I have heard every word. He said it might be possible in the future. I look up at him and, as if to dash my hopes of a future when Chapel and I could sit and read together, he adds, in the next century, perhaps.

Related Characters: Mr. Whitechapel (speaker), Lydia (speaker), Chapel
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13: Sanders Junior Quotes

“I couldn’t strike you. You showed me how to run things. My father spoke highly of you. You were a better overseer than I. There I was, thinking I was the first one to rise in the morning, setting an example for everyone, and you were out here even before me. Always first and last in everything. I am sorry about your son. Not my brother. I knew him only as the son of a slave. He was trouble from the day he talked. He not only asked questions but when you gave him an answer he was never satisfied. He always asked why: Why this? Why that?”

Related Characters: Sanders Junior (speaker), Whitechapel, Chapel
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:
Forgetting Quotes

“Shall I tell you about your blood? That two races are distributed evenly in it? Shall I help you prepare for a life elsewhere? Where? This is the only place I know. Maybe I am wrong, I wonder to myself as I see myself doing it, wrong to tell the master that my son is gone and say I want him back under my guidance and protection. Then I ask myself, after I see the entire scene, what guidance? What protection?”

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker), Chapel
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Longest Memory LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Longest Memory PDF

Chapel Character Timeline in The Longest Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Chapel appears in The Longest Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Remembering
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...cried was after the death of a boy he considered his own (later introduced as Chapel). Ever since that last, harrowing shedding of tears, he has refused to feel such pain... (full context)
Chapter 1: Whitechapel
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Whitechapel recalls his son’s whipping, noting that despite the intense agony he felt from seeing his son beaten so... (full context)
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After half of the allotted two hundred lashes, Whitechapel’s son is already gone. After each lash, his body immediately tenses to prepare for the next... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
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...and the other slaves beg the overseer (later revealed as Sanders Junior) to spare Whitechapel’s son from more lashes. However, the boy is always able to answer to his name (Chapel)... (full context)
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Before closing his son’s lifeless eyes and realizing that, from that moment onward, he would adopt the exact same... (full context)
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...mostly leave him alone, merely checking whether he is still alive every morning. Once, Whitechapel’s grandson ran into him when turning a corner, accidentally knocking him to the ground in the... (full context)
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...the death of his second wife (later revealed as Cook), which dragged on for weeks. Chapel held her, hiding his tears. Cook’s final words were for Whitechapel, telling him to join... (full context)
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Whitechapel attempts to justify his participation in Chapel’s death. He explains that his son needed to be reminded that he was only a... (full context)
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Unlike his son, Whitechapel trusts that a slave can live a long life and receive respect and fairness... (full context)
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In the days leading up to Chapel’s escape, Whitechapel is distracted from his son’s desire to run away by Cook’s slow death.... (full context)
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...authority, is better for the community, and leads to a longer life. Whitechapel knew that Chapel belonged to the first category, and that Whitechapel would have to work on his son’s... (full context)
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To save Chapel, Whitechapel decides to talk to his master, Mr. Whitechapel, and negotiate his son’s fair treatment... (full context)
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...first time in their conversation and begs him to keep the search party from killing Chapel. The master merely says that Chapel is now in God’s hands, and that Whitechapel should... (full context)
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Whitechapel then reveals that he knows where Chapel is hiding. Surprised and furious at seeing his slave hold such power over him, Mr.... (full context)
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...the slaves in the house look at him angrily, as though he were sacrificing his son’s life. Whitechapel leaves Mr. Whitechapel’s house with relief, believing that the domestic slaves, who are... (full context)
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Whitechapel spends the rest of the day waiting eagerly for any sign of his son. Mr. Whitechapel, who initially delayed his trip to the North, ultimately decides that he cannot... (full context)
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Seeing his son dragged into the plantation, Whitechapel trusts that he is the only person capable of saving... (full context)
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...that he and four other witnesses can attest to hearing the master’s orders to lock Chapel up until Mr. Whitechapel’s return. Sanders Junior threatens to whip him if he keeps on... (full context)
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Angry at Sanders Junior’s action, Whitechapel’s son tries to attack the overseer but is restrained by the men in the search party... (full context)
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...deputy, despite the fatal danger for slaves to be found off the plantation at night. Chapel calls out for Cook (who died the previous day), and Whitechapel begs the Sanders Junior... (full context)
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...Whitechapel realizes that he was given neither mercy nor respect. He realizes that he wanted Chapel to be by his side when he eventually died, just as he and Chapel were... (full context)
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel
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...Sanders Junior, the deputy, and Whitechapel, accusing all of them of behaving foolishly and causing Chapel’s brutal death. The master claims the boy’s escape was Whitechapel’s own fault, since he was... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
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...respect, and wonders if they might be right in mocking him. Ultimately, he decides that Chapel’s punishment was right even though it happened in a disorderly fashion. (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel also scolds Sanders Junior for hitting Whitechapel and whipping Chapel to death in front of him, invoking Whitechapel’s honorable behavior and long, serious work for... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...Whitechapel’s virgin wife (Cook), and she became pregnant, but that Whitechapel accepted the illegitimate child (Chapel) as his own. Seeing Sanders Junior’s shock, Mr. Whitechapel realizes with surprise that the man... (full context)
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...Whitechapel could have used this fact to keep Sanders Junior from whipping his own half-brother (Chapel) to death, but that Whitechapel probably assumed Sanders did not care. The master explains that... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sanders Senior
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...died in childbirth, which upsets the boy terribly. In September, Cook gives birth to a son (Chapel) whose skin is dark but whom Sanders finds looks exactly like his own son.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Chapel
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Whitechapel and Cook’s son, nicknamed Chapel, reflects on his family and his life on the plantation. He notes that... (full context)
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On the plantation, Chapel explains that he has always tried to behave well to avoid the whip—a punishment that... (full context)
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Chapel describes life in the master’s house, recalling in particular his time with Mr. Whitechapel’s daughter,... (full context)
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One day, while Chapel is reading and watching Lydia listen to him with closed eyes, he is suddenly startled... (full context)
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Reacting to Mr. Whitechapel’s beating, Chapel says he deserves to be a slave and claims obedience to his master. Chapel describes... (full context)
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Chapel then recalls animated discussions about freedom he’s had with Whitechapel. Chapel regrets some of his... (full context)
Chapter 6: Plantation Owners
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
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...has helped build the club, the plantation owners take turns mockingly congratulating him for whipping Chapel to death. A long, heated debate ensues about the men’s differing visions of slavery. Mr.... (full context)
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Meanwhile, the other plantation owners mock Mr. Whitechapel for being a hypocrite, emphasizing that Chapel’s death proves that Mr. Whitechapel’s beliefs about slaves’ humanity and right to respect are illusory.... (full context)
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When Mr. Whitechapel takes a moment to think of Chapel to himself, he realizes guiltily that, after this young boy’s death—whom he once beat with... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel then resolves to tell the plantation owners about Chapel’s true identity in a mysterious way, starting a new discussion by claiming that whipping slaves... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
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...mention the slave Whitechapel, Mr. Whitechapel resolves to finally tell these men the truth about Chapel more directly. However, they keep him from expressing his ideas fully, and they mockingly wonder... (full context)
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...included in the same group as his fellow plantation owners and accepted by all. Despite Chapel’s death, he feels comfort in knowing that his loyal slave Whitechapel is still alive. After... (full context)
Chapter 7: Lydia
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Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Lydia describes the evolution of her relationship with Chapel. She initially treats him like a young brother, taking his hand to lead him into... (full context)
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When Lydia sees that Chapel is eager to understand what she is reading from, she teaches him to read, enjoying... (full context)
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Over the course of several weeks, Chapel begins to say a few words aloud as Lydia reads, and she leaves spaces for... (full context)
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After a while, Chapel becomes capable of reading to Lydia, pausing for her as she used to pause for... (full context)
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Before teaching Chapel to write, Lydia makes him swear to keep this activity secret, which he does because... (full context)
Chapter 8: Cook
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One day, Cook calls Chapel while cooking but does not hear him answer. After walking around and listening carefully, she... (full context)
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Cook runs back to the kitchen and yells Chapel’s name again, this time hearing his answer in a voice she recognizes. Chapel runs toward... (full context)
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...to convince herself that what she heard is unimportant, but she cannot avoid admitting that Chapel’s action is a bold, subversive act. Ultimately, she concludes that she wants neither herself nor... (full context)
Chapter 9: Lydia
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Lydia recounts the day her father, Mr. Whitechapel, caught her reading with Chapel. She describes the feeling of falling in love with Chapel, as she no longer listens... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel reprimands Lydia for teaching Chapel to read, telling her that she has committed an injustice since Chapel will never be... (full context)
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One day, when Lydia is dreaming of Chapel, Cook enters the reading room and gives the young girl a cryptic message about someone... (full context)
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Lydia asks Chapel what he would wish for if he saw a shooting star, but he refuses to... (full context)
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...two of them agree to meet on clear nights and, to avoid disobeying Mr. Whitechapel, Chapel says that he will compose lines in his mind, which Lydia can write down later,... (full context)
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Finally, the two of them part after telling each other they love each other. Chapel tells Lydia not to turn around, so that he will not disobey Mr. Whitechapel, who... (full context)
Chapter 10: Lydia
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...until the Spenser, Milton, and Shakespeare fall from her head. Outside, at night, she and Chapel touch each other’s bodies while reciting lines from memorized books, and Lydia notices that she... (full context)
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...men whom she is supposed to consider for marriage. However, she always compares them to Chapel and, as a result, finds their attitudes ridiculous and their intelligence despicable. When she discusses... (full context)
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...has met. Under such pressure, Lydia goes to her room and cries, wishing desperately that Chapel could be white, or that she could be black. (full context)
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...arguing that slaves should be paid for their labor. She imagines herself walking freely with Chapel in public in the North and later tells him about this dream. However, Chapel seems... (full context)
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Lydia proceeds to give Chapel more details about the North, encouraging him to try escaping there with her, but Chapel... (full context)
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The logistics of the trip thus leaves Chapel and Lydia incapable of escaping together. Chapel initially feels resigned to his fate but then... (full context)
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When Lydia tells Chapel about what she has learned from Thomas, the two of them dream of the various... (full context)
Chapter 12: Great Granddaughter
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...second marriage and the sadness that marked his face after his wife, Cook, died. Since Chapel’s death, he has empty eyes and everyone avoids him because the old man was responsible... (full context)
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...of beatings. She wonders if there is a way anyone could have convinced Whitechapel that Chapel would be safe but decides not to interrogate him about it. Finally, one day, she... (full context)
Chapter 13: Sanders Junior
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...slave, whom he considers a better overseer than him. Although he feels sorry for Whitechapel’s son, Sanders adamantly rejects the idea that he and Chapel are brothers, since Sanders only knew... (full context)
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Sanders Junior wonders why Whitechapel was not capable of keeping Chapel from running away and places the blame for what has happened on him. He also... (full context)
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...have been inappropriate otherwise. He apologizes to Whitechapel for unknowingly killing his half-brother, saying that Chapel turned out to be weaker than he thought. He merely wanted his punishment to be... (full context)
Forgetting
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Whitechapel begins an imaginary conversation with his son, Chapel. He tells Chapel that, because of his biracial nature, part of him was free... (full context)
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Whitechapel admits that he heard Chapel call Lydia’s name in his dreams and found Chapel’s sexual desire healthy, but realizes admits... (full context)