Study Guide

The Whipping Stanza 3

By Robert Hayden

Stanza 3

Lines 9-12

She strikes and strikes the shrilly circling
boy till the stick breaks
in her hand. His tears are rainy weather
to woundlike memories:

  • Apparently the woman has caught her prey (uh oh). She's so angry that she "strikes and strikes" the boy.
  • He's still running around in circles, and crying in a very shrill ("shrilly") voice.
  • This woman—sheesh. She's hitting him so hard that the stick breaks. (Think about that for a sec.) This woman is hitting hard.
  • The boy is crying, and his tears are the equivalent of a stormy, "rainy weather" to… "woundlike memories"?
  • Okay, first off, why "woundlike"? Is that even a word? Technically no, but this is poetry, and that's a simile. If somebody's memories are like wounds, that means they hurt. They're not the nice, happy memories you might have of, say, this place.
  • Now, we say "somebody's" because, really, it's not clear whose memories are "wound like."
  • Our gut says it's the woman's, but we can't be too sure. It's possible that the speaker is talking about the boy here, or even about himself. Let's read on…

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