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