The Longest Memory

by

Fred D’Aguiar

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Whitechapel Character Analysis

Whitechapel, the protagonist of the novel, is the oldest and most trusted slave on Mr. Whitechapel’s plantation. He is married to a young slave named Cook and has an illegitimate, half-black son named Chapel (the then-overseer, Sanders Senior, raped Cook, resulting in her pregnancy). Whitechapel earns respect from authority figures through his obedience, hard work, and willingness to accept his inferior status as a slave. Whitechapel is known for his moral rigidity, which leads him to impose his views about obedience on everybody around him, including his son, who pines for freedom and a better life. However, Cook and Chapel also admire and love Whitechapel, and they are impressed by his righteousness and devotion to his family. Whitechapel’s acceptance of slavery does not reduce him to complete passivity, since on various occasions, Whitechapel demonstrates his bustling intelligence, as well as his capacity to defend his own rights and his moral beliefs. Despite his initial rejection of freedom, Whitechapel also proves capable of deep honesty and self-examination, which ultimately lead him to conclude that his views about justice and obedience on the plantation have been wrong all his life. His greatest failing is when he accidentally brings about his son’s brutal death (at the hands of Sanders Junior) while trying to teach Chapel a lesson about running away and knowing his place in life.

Whitechapel Quotes in The Longest Memory

The The Longest Memory quotes below are all either spoken by Whitechapel or refer to Whitechapel. 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:

There are two types of slave: the slave who must experience everything for himself before coming to an understanding of anything and he who learns through observation. The slave in the first category behaves as if he is the only slave in the world and is visited by the worst luck on earth. That type of slave is agitated, brings much trouble on his head and he makes the lot of every slave ten times worse. It is generally accepted that the slave in the second category is brighter, lives longer, causes everyone around him a minimum of worries and earns the small kindness of the overseer and the master.

Related Characters: Whitechapel (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paradise
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 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 6: Plantation Owners Quotes

“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 12: Great Granddaughter Quotes

He never talked about Africa. It was his view, I found out later, that such talk promoted day dreams and insolence on the plantation. He said Africa was his past and not ours. If anyone had the right to dream about it, he did and he chose not to, so why should anyone else.

Related Characters: Whitechapel’s Great-Granddaughter (speaker), Whitechapel
Related Symbols: Paradise
Page Number: 125
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

Whitechapel Character Timeline in The Longest Memory

The timeline below shows where the character Whitechapel appears in The Longest Memory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Remembering
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
In a mournful voice, Whitechapel, the oldest and most respected slave on Mr. Whitechapel’s plantation in Virginia, begins to speak.... (full context)
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Whitechapel also rejects emotion, admitting that he is no longer able to cry because the last... (full context)
Chapter 1: Whitechapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Whitechapel describes the morning after he decided to abandon his identity. Instead of staying up all... (full context)
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Whitechapel recalls hearing other people die in their sleep and, in particular, the moment of their... (full context)
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Whitechapel recalls his son’s whipping, noting that despite the intense agony he felt from seeing his... (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... (full context)
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In a dangerous act of protest that could get them punished, Whitechapel and the other slaves beg the overseer (later revealed as Sanders Junior) to spare Whitechapel’s... (full context)
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...and realizing that, from that moment onward, he would adopt the exact same empty look, Whitechapel applies balm to his son’s back. As he does so, Whitechapel cries frantically and apologizes... (full context)
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At the plantation, people call Whitechapel “Sour face” because of the deep worry lines on his face. He was unaware that... (full context)
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After witnessing the death of two wives and most of his children, Whitechapel is now surrounded by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They mostly leave him alone, merely checking... (full context)
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Sometimes, Whitechapel feels suddenly dizzy and has to sit down. This has led his great grandchildren to... (full context)
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Because of the misery of his life, Whitechapel now looks forward to his death. He recalls the death of his second wife (later... (full context)
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Whitechapel attempts to justify his participation in Chapel’s death. He explains that his son needed to... (full context)
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Unlike his son, Whitechapel trusts that a slave can live a long life and receive respect and fairness from... (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. When the... (full context)
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Whitechapel explains that there are two types of slaves. The first kind only learns from experience.... (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 in... (full context)
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Whitechapel then looks up to Mr. Whitechapel for the first time in their conversation and begs... (full context)
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Whitechapel then reveals that he knows where Chapel is hiding. Surprised and furious at seeing his... (full context)
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While Whitechapel feels relieved, realizing that this was the most he could hope for, the slaves in... (full context)
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Whitechapel spends the rest of the day waiting eagerly for any sign of his son. Mr.... (full context)
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Seeing his son dragged into the plantation, Whitechapel trusts that he is the only person capable of saving Chapel from what he considers... (full context)
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Despite the danger of contradicting Sanders Junior’s desire, Whitechapel tells him that he and four other witnesses can attest to hearing the master’s orders... (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... (full context)
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Panicked, Whitechapel sends a slave to look for the deputy, despite the fatal danger for slaves to... (full context)
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Now, Whitechapel realizes that he was given neither mercy nor respect. He realizes that he wanted Chapel... (full context)
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel
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Back on the plantation the next day, Mr. Whitechapel launches in a long monologue to Sanders Junior, the deputy, and Whitechapel, accusing all of... (full context)
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Angry at what has happened, Mr. Whitechapel wonders if he should sell all the slaves on his plantation, because he doesn’t know... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel tells Whitechapel to leave, orders him to calm his fellow slaves down, and tells him... (full context)
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Once Whitechapel is gone, Mr. Whitechapel tells his two employees he is not actually worried about Whitechapel... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel also scolds Sanders Junior for hitting Whitechapel and whipping Chapel to death in front of... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel trusts that they will all have to work hard to make their slaves obedient again,... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel adds that Whitechapel could have used this fact to keep Sanders Junior from whipping his... (full context)
Chapter 3: Sanders Senior
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...Senior does tell his son that she is in heaven. Sanders Senior admires the slave Whitechapel’s skill, knowledge, and hardworking attitude, but this does not keep him from treating his slaves... (full context)
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...Senior believes that slaves are cattle and should not be given more food, despite Mr. Whitechapel’s new orders. After a few female slaves die on the plantation, he needs to find... (full context)
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Sanders Senior tells Sanders Junior that slaves are intellectually inferior. When his son replies that Whitechapel can tie a knot that his father cannot replicate, Sanders Senior considers this a joke... (full context)
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...Caroline, he realizes that he feels attracted to Cook but that, at the same time, Whitechapel has become a good friend of hers, which seems to indicate romantic interest. He jokes... (full context)
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When Sanders Senior is caught beating a slave, Mr. Whitechapel reprimands him, which irritates the overseer. On Sanders Junior’s birthday, which is also the anniversary... (full context)
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...later, Sanders Senior scolds Cook for answering one of Sanders Junior’s questions about death, while Whitechapel teaches him to click his heels, which annoys his father greatly. Meanwhile, Sanders Senior continues... (full context)
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When Sanders Senior and Mr. Whitechapel go to the market to look for a new slave, they discuss Abolitionists’ increasing protests.... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
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...desire and tells her to leave. The thought of her keeps him awake at night. Whitechapel later asks Sanders if he has succeeded in finding a new cook, and the overseer... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
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...keep her from telling anyone about what has happened, he agrees to let her marry Whitechapel immediately. Despite his fear that Whitechapel might find out about the rape and kill him,... (full context)
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On the first of January, Whitechapel and Cook get married. Sanders Senior reflects that most slaves on the plantation belong to... (full context)
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The next day, Sanders Senior is summoned to a meeting with Mr. Whitechapel, Whitechapel, and Cook. He knows the meeting will be about the rape and does not... (full context)
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One day, Sanders Senior is once again convened to Mr. Whitechapel’s house, as Cook has revealed that she lost her virginity to him when he raped... (full context)
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...fun of his son’s aspirations to become a scientist or a philosopher. In the meantime, Whitechapel seems genuinely happy about Cook’s pregnancy. (full context)
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Disaster strikes when a slave runs away, and Mr. Whitechapel removes some of the slaves’ privileges. Famished and desperate, the runaway finally returns to the... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
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...skin is dark but whom Sanders finds looks exactly like his own son. Sanders tells Whitechapel to give his son the same name, since Whitechapel will raise him as his own... (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 to quell the rumors. Sanders obeys the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Cook
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...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... (full context)
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Initially, Cook thought Whitechapel was too old for her, but now she feels deeply loved and is grateful that... (full context)
Chapter 5: Chapel
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Whitechapel and Cook’s son, nicknamed Chapel, reflects on his family and his life on the plantation.... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
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...around him, forcing them to conform to life as slaves. He notes that his father, Whitechapel, has chosen reason and pliancy over moral imperatives such as freedom. Chapel explains that his... (full context)
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Chapel describes life in the master’s house, recalling in particular his time with Mr. Whitechapel’s daughter, Lydia, who has taught him to read from the bible, after making him swear... (full context)
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...watching Lydia listen to him with closed eyes, he is suddenly startled to see Mr. Whitechapel enter the room. Lydia’s father orders her out of the room and whips Chapel with... (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.... (full context)
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Chapel then recalls animated discussions about freedom he’s had with Whitechapel. Chapel regrets some of his words, as he believes that some of his criticism regarding... (full context)
Chapter 6: Plantation Owners
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Mr. Whitechapel prepares to meet his fellow plantation owners, whom he knows will ridicule him. He feels... (full context)
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When Mr. Whitechapel’s carriage approaches the building, the plantation owners are amused and wonder why Mr. Whitechapel would... (full context)
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When Mr. Whitechapel enters the building, trying to convince himself that this is his home because his father... (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’... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel feels that half of him joins in the plantation owners’ collective merriment, while another half... (full context)
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When Mr. Whitechapel takes a moment to think of Chapel to himself, he realizes guiltily that, after this... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel then resolves to tell the plantation owners about Chapel’s true identity in a mysterious way,... (full context)
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When the plantation owners mention the slave Whitechapel, Mr. Whitechapel resolves to finally tell these men the truth about Chapel more directly. However,... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel finally feels at peace and ceases to be conflicted, as he feels included in the... (full context)
Chapter 8: Cook
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...fully his. When she walks toward the sound and listens through the door where Mr. Whitechapel keeps his books—a room Cook has never dared enter—she hears Chapel reading loud and strong,... (full context)
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...the master. At the same time, she worries about having to talk about this with Whitechapel. (full context)
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...action is a bold, subversive act. Ultimately, she concludes that she wants neither herself nor Whitechapel to tell their son that he cannot read. Despite loving her husband and respecting his... (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,... (full context)
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Mr. Whitechapel reprimands Lydia for teaching Chapel to read, telling her that she has committed an injustice... (full context)
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...if he saw a shooting star, but he refuses to reveal his thought, explaining that Whitechapel has told him that a wish will not come true if it is revealed to... (full context)
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The 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... (full context)
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...other. Chapel tells Lydia not to turn around, so that he will not disobey Mr. Whitechapel, who has told him never to see her again. For the next months, the two... (full context)
Chapter 12: Great Granddaughter
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Whitechapel’s great granddaughter recalls the memory of Whitechapel washing her and complaining about New England lice... (full context)
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The great granddaughter enjoys Whitechapel’s washing sessions, because she thinks of him as “African Great Grandfather.” She tells him that... (full context)
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When the great granddaughter is done telling Whitechapel her dream, he tells her that she should not think of Africa. He tells her... (full context)
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The great granddaughter recalls Whitechapel’s second marriage and the sadness that marked his face after his wife, Cook, died. Since... (full context)
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...has nightmares 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... (full context)
Chapter 13: Sanders Junior
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Sanders Junior engages in an imaginary dialogue with Whitechapel, who is now dead. He is surprised to realize that Whitechapel is actually dead and... (full context)
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Sanders Junior explains that he could never have hit Whitechapel hard, because he learned his entire trade from the knowledgeable slave, whom he considers a... (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... (full context)
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...insists that slavery is a business, and that all the slaves’ lives belong to Mr. Whitechapel, which means that slaves should not rebel. He adds that he liked Whitechapel because he... (full context)
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Sanders Junior orders people to cover Whitechapel before moving his body and even gives his jacket for that purpose, realizing that he... (full context)
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Sanders Junior reflects on his act of giving Whitechapel his jacket, which used to belong to his father, Sanders Senior. Sanders Junior concludes that... (full context)
Forgetting
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Whitechapel begins an imaginary conversation with his son, Chapel. He tells Chapel that, because of his... (full context)
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Whitechapel admits that he heard Chapel call Lydia’s name in his dreams and found Chapel’s sexual... (full context)
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Whitechapel concludes that he has been wrong all his life, and that he would need several... (full context)