The Longest Memory

by

Fred D’Aguiar

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Sanders Senior Character Analysis

Sanders Senior was the overseer at Mr. Whitechapel’s plantation before Sanders Junior, his son, took over. After the death of his wife, Caroline, Sanders Senior feels lonely and generally depressed about his position and his life. These feelings of emptiness—coupled with his tendency for brutality—lead him to repeatedly rape a young, pretty slave named Cook, who works in the Sanders household. Cook then gives birth to Chapel, who is Sanders Senior’s biological child, but whom Whitechapel claims as his own son. Despite admiring Whitechapel’s skills—which he refuses to consider evidence of intelligence—Sanders Senior is a deeply racist character who rejects slaves’ humanity and advocates violent punishment, taking pleasure in whipping slaves. He shuns all demonstrations of kindness or empathy and mocks people’s efforts at moral or spiritual elevation, including his own son’s interrogations about race and desire to be a scientist or a philosopher.

Sanders Senior Quotes in The Longest Memory

The The Longest Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Sanders Senior or refer to Sanders Senior. 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.
Chapter 3: Sanders Senior Quotes

I told my son that we are different from slaves in intelligence and human standing before God. He asked why Whitechapel could do a knot that I couldn’t do. His first joke. Not a bad one. I said doing things like that was not a proper measure of intelligence. Then he asked why they were dark and we were bright. His word “bright.”

Related Characters: Sanders Senior (speaker), Whitechapel, Sanders Junior
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4: Cook Quotes

Whitechapel saved me. The second time I had to tell someone or surely die. There was no one to tell but my husband. Whitechapel saved my life. A child not his. A pure wife no longer pure. Any other man would have thrown me away. He is no ordinary man. His master respects him.

Related Characters: Cook (speaker), Whitechapel, Sanders Senior
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11: The Virginian Quotes

Young, nubile female slaves are a temptation to us all, but one that should be religiously avoided. […] If these female slaves are used in this way they engender bitterness in a house between the overseer and his wife or the master and his wife. The slave may even become aware of this influence and exploit it to her own advantage. I therefore argue for restraint.

Related Characters: Editor of The Virginian (speaker), Cook, Sanders Senior
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Longest Memory LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Longest Memory PDF

Sanders Senior Character Timeline in The Longest Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Sanders Senior appears in The Longest Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Whitechapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...master’s orders.  Sanders Junior then hits him in the face. Remembering that Sanders Junior’s father, Sanders Senior , who was the overseer thirty years ago, had hit him in a similar way... (full context)
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...work hard to make their slaves obedient again, invoking a mysterious episode between Whitechapel and Sanders Senior as proof that Whitechapel’s patience and obedience have been well tested and tried in the... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...only reason he gave orders to spare Chapel was because of his special status as Sanders Senior ’s son. Otherwise, he would have let his overseer handle the situation as he saw... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sanders Senior
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...novel jumps back in time. In a series of diary entries, starting in January 1796, Sanders Senior relates his life on the plantation. Ever since the death of his wife, Caroline, five... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Sanders Senior believes that slaves are cattle and should not be given more food, despite Mr. Whitechapel’s... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Sanders Senior tells Sanders Junior that slaves are intellectually inferior. When his son replies that Whitechapel can... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When Sanders Senior ’s normal cook gets sick, he decides to use the new girl (Cook) in the... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
When Sanders Senior is caught beating a slave, Mr. Whitechapel reprimands him, which irritates the overseer. On Sanders... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
A few days later, Sanders Senior scolds Cook for answering one of Sanders Junior’s questions about death, while Whitechapel teaches him... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
When Sanders Senior and Mr. Whitechapel go to the market to look for a new slave, they discuss... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
After the visit to the market fails to bring a new slave on the plantation, Sanders Senior finds excuses to invite Cook to his room. On one occasion, he scolds her for... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
On Christmas Eve, a time that reminds Sanders Senior of Caroline, the overseer grabs Cook, draws her to his bed, and rapes her, seeking... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
On the first of January, Whitechapel and Cook get married. Sanders Senior reflects that most slaves on the plantation belong to Whitechapel’s family, and worries about the... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
The next day, Sanders Senior is summoned to a meeting with Mr. Whitechapel, Whitechapel, and Cook. He knows the meeting... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
One day, Sanders Senior is once again convened to Mr. Whitechapel’s house, as Cook has revealed that she lost... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Over the next few months, Sanders Senior keeps on refusing to tell Sanders Junior about Caroline’s death, and Sanders Senior also makes... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...fever. Mr. Whitechapel seems worried that the slave’s wounds might have caused his death, but Sanders Senior finds this idea ridiculous. (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Sanders Senior finally tells Sanders Junior that his mother, Caroline, died in childbirth, which upsets the boy... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Meanwhile, after rumors begin to spread about Sanders Senior ’s role in Cook’s pregnancy, Mr. Whitechapel furiously orders the overseer to find a wife... (full context)
Chapter 4: Cook
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Cook relates her experience with the overseer, Sanders Senior. Although she wanted to die after he raped her, she soon found love and peace... (full context)
Chapter 6: Plantation Owners
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...are curious about what Mr. Whitechapel has to say. When Mr. Whitechapel finally reveals that Sanders Senior raped Whitechapel’s wife, Cook, who bore the very boy who was whipped to death, the... (full context)
Chapter 13: Sanders Junior
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...on his act of giving Whitechapel his jacket, which used to belong to his father, Sanders Senior. Sanders Junior concludes that he is just as severe as his father. At the same... (full context)