The Longest Memory

by

Fred D’Aguiar

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Longest Memory can help.
Whip Symbol Icon

On the plantation, the whip symbolizes the insurmountable divide between a master and his slaves. Although Whitechapel initially believes in Mr. Whitechapel’s fair treatment, the very existence of the whip underlines slavery’s inherent brutality. Indeed, even if Mr. Whitechapel tries to use the whip as little as possible, the very fact that he can use it at any time symbolizes the total control he has over his slaves’ bodies and lives, which are his literal property. After Chapel’s death, Mr. Whitechapel realizes that the whip has nothing to do with justice. It cannot, therefore, be seen as fair punishment—a “judicious whip”—since all it does is destroy bodies and bring an end to slaves’ humanity. The whip also underscores the ubiquity of oppression. When Whitechapel puts balm on his son’s back after being brutally whipped by Sanders Junior, Whitechapel sees his son cringe and has to tell him that his hand is not the whip. This scene serves as a symbolic representation of Whitechapel’s guilt, as he attempts to exonerate himself for his participation in his son’s death and comes to terms with the fact that he, too, like the overseer, can be an oppressor. Ultimately, the whip serves as a concrete reminder that, beneath the veneer of civility and fairness that some masters adopt, slavery’s main object is the physical subjection of vulnerable black bodies.

Whip Quotes in The Longest Memory

The The Longest Memory quotes below all refer to the symbol of Whip. 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 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:
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:
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:

“Our line of work is slaves, we can’t change the fact. We do it the way we think best serves our investment.”

“It’s not a charity.”

“We are Christians but Christianity does not equal weakness.”

“We treat our slaves with a firm hand, we’re severe in the hope that other slaves will behave well out of fear.”

Related Characters: Plantation Owners (speaker), Mr. Whitechapel
Related Symbols: Whip
Page Number: 73
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 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:
Get the entire The Longest Memory LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Longest Memory PDF

Whip Symbol Timeline in The Longest Memory

The timeline below shows where the symbol Whip 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
...tears, he has refused to feel such pain again. He hopes to forget the unjust whipping of this boy—a punishment that was far too severe. To this end, he works hard... (full context)
Chapter 1: Whitechapel
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Whitechapel recalls his son’s whipping, noting that despite the intense agony he felt from seeing his son beaten so brutally,... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...perception in the same way that his son’s body gradually abandons itself to the unrelenting whip. (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...authority figures interpret as a sign of vitality, sufficient to pursue the punishment. Therefore, the whip continues to dig into the boy’s flesh and blood. By the end of the two... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...son recoil in pain at his touch, Whitechapel explains that his hand is not the whip. His son nods to these words but becomes increasingly quiet and eventually ceases to nod... (full context)
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...the master’s orders to lock Chapel up until Mr. Whitechapel’s return. Sanders Junior threatens to whip him if he keeps on speaking, but, intent on protecting his son, Whitechapel ignores him... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...out for Cook (who died the previous day), and Whitechapel begs the Sanders Junior to whip him in Chapel’s place, saying that his son is all he has. Sanders Junior just... (full context)
Chapter 2: Mr. Whitechapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
Mr. Whitechapel adds that 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.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Chapel
Freedom vs. Obedience Theme Icon
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...the plantation, Chapel explains that he has always tried to behave well to avoid the whip—a punishment that he can see has taken away all joy and life from so many... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...see Mr. Whitechapel enter the room. Lydia’s father orders her out of the room and whips Chapel with his belt, forbidding him from reading again and threatening to send him to... (full context)
Chapter 6: Plantation Owners
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...father 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.... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...complain about his attitude of superiority toward them and try to make him admit that whipping that slave finally made him feel alive. (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...beat with a belt as if Chapel were his own son—there can be no “judicious whip” on the plantation. Rather, punishment is always brutal. (full context)
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...about Chapel’s true identity in a mysterious way, starting a new discussion by claiming that whipping slaves leads to “brother killing brother.” Asking for their complete secrecy, and feeling dizzy with... (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...reveals that Sanders Senior raped Whitechapel’s wife, Cook, who bore the very boy who was whipped to death, the men are incredulous at hearing this story. Mostly, they do not understand... (full context)
Chapter 11: The Virginian
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
...honest human being, capable of love and compassion, can remain perfectly dignified while choosing to whip a slave. (full context)
Racism and Inequality Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...between masters and slaves, the editor recounts a story he recently heard of an overseer whipping a young slave to death, whom he later learned was none other than his half-brother. (full context)
Chapter 12: Great Granddaughter
Punishment and Cruelty Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Family Theme Icon
...that he knew what to do, and that they should just trust him. During the whipping, everyone noted Whitechapel’s own surprise, as though he hadn’t planned for this to happen. His... (full context)