Thursday, May 8, 2008

Close Reading : The Whipping by Robert Hayden

Hayden, Robert. “The Whipping.” The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed.
J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2007. 49-50.

She strikes and strikes the shrilly circling
boy till the stick breaks
in her hand. His tears are rainy weather
to woundlike memories:(lines 9-12)

The poem at this point is describing the way the older woman is beating the boy, her literal actions and his equal reaction to her beatings. The use of consonance in repeating the "s" sounds in strike and shrilly and she, are placed in a rythem of how the actual blows to the boy would be spaced. Each "s" sound could be read and imagined as the next strike of the whipping from the stick until it literally breaks from the force that the woman is using it. There is also dramatic irony in the poem, by the end of it we as the audience know that the old woman is whipping the boy to purge herself "...for lifelong hidingd she has had to bear(23-24)." The boy getting beat doesn't seem to be aware of the reason why he is being beat by this face that he once "knew" and "loved." A metaphor can be found in the camparison of the boy's tears to rainy weather. And the fact that the boy is circling in an attempt to hide himself from the blows gives for a better understanding of how circling and confusing being beaten and doing the beating can be for the two. It is a good word choice because it lets you picture how the woman must have been so wrapped up and encircled by the action that she doesn't realize she's hurting the boy until after the fact. The boy on the other hand would be confused for getting beaten and the actual action could leave him dizzy and circling to get away. And the action cirlces around the speaker who seems to be remembering being beaten himself. The technical aspects of the passion really do help in understanding what the greater meaning in Hayden's poem may be.

-Kelly Gore

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