Study Guide

The Whipping Stanza 5

By Robert Hayden

Stanza 5

Lines 17-18

Words could bring, the face that I
no longer knew or loved…

  • Ahh, so here's our answer. The word "hateful" from the last line is describing "Words" here in line 17. So, the blows were brought by hateful words. The fear this person experienced was worse than those, though.
  • Okay, so… words and blows? What's the deal with that?
  • Well, "blows" are punches, and words don't really strike people literally.
  • That means then that this is a metaphor for the painful effect that hateful words can have on somebody. 
  • The fear that is being described here is, even still, a whole lot worse than hateful words. 
  • On top of that, there's also a face in this memory, one that's no longer recognizable or lovable to the person whose memory this is. 
  • The appearance of the face is a bit odd. It just sort of shows up here, and we have no idea whose face this is or anything. The most likely explanation is that this "face" is the face of the abuser. 
  • Whoever's memory this is has determined at some point that the face of the person doing the beating would become completely foreign.
  • The person doing the beating is probably a close to the victim—somebody usually "loved" and "recognized"—but is now no longer because of their violent behavior.
  • This is the first time we get the word "I" in the poem, and it might seem like the speaker is now talking about his own experience. Of course, he could also be projecting into the woman and narrating from her point of view. It's just not clear.
  • This little tidbit could even describe the relationship between the woman and the boy. The boy may very well be on his way to no longer recognizing the woman's face, or loving it. So many possibilities—let's see if reading on helps clear things up…

Lines 19-20

Well, it is over now, it is over,
and the boy sobs in his room,

  • Okay, so it looks like we're shifting gears again now. And to think, we were just getting comfortable with that whole stream of consciousness business.
  • Yeah, we're finished with that now, and we are back in the "present." The story is resuming.
  • It sounds like the whipping is over. Actually, the speaker tells us that twice, just to make sure we get the message.
  • The boy is in his room now, sobbing. Gosh, that sounds eerily familiar doesn't it? Fight with the parents, a little discipline, and then the parents cool off somewhere and the kid goes and cries in his room?
  • Yep, we've all been there.
  • Except… it's a little different here. We're not talking about getting caught eating cookies in the middle of the night and then getting a five-minute time out. 
  • Oh no. This is a completely baseless act of violence on the woman's part, for one thing.
  • And she really whips the boy. She chases him all over and even breaks the stick she's using to whip him.
  • Now that we've seen the boy, let's see what the woman is up to…

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