Study Guide

The Whipping Tough-o-Meter

By Robert Hayden

Tough-o-Meter

(2) Sea Level

"The Whipping" really isn't too difficult of a poem, even though some of Hayden's work can be a little confusing. It's a pretty straightforward story (a woman whips a boy, chases him around, breaks the stick she whips him with, she rests, he cries), if a little disturbing. There's nothing crazy as far as word choice goes (except for maybe those plant references), and the sentence structure is forgiving.

The one little hiccup occurs in the middle of the poem, with that bizarre memory recall moment. It's confusing because it almost comes out of nowhere, and it's not clear just exactly whose memory it is. Then again, the confusion is in keeping with the poem's emphasis on the chaos it describes and, pretty easily, you can choose to interpret this in one of just a few directions. So don't worry, folks. You've got this.

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