Study Guide

The Whipping Stanza 6

By Robert Hayden

Stanza 6

Lines 21-24

And the woman leans muttering against
a tree, exhausted, purged—
avenged in part for lifelong hidings
she has had to bear.

  • Whew—the woman is clearly tuckered out from chasing the boy all over the place and whipping him.
  • She's so tired that she's now leaning against a tree and "muttering" to herself about something or other. She's "exhausted" and "purged" (we'll get to that in just a moment here) and supposedly "avenged" for a whole lot of stuff she has had to endure throughout her life. 
  • Okay, so let's break all this down and make sure we're clear on just what exactly is going on.
  • The word "purge" means to get rid of something. The woman's violent whipping of the boy is an attempt to get rid of, well, something that she doesn't like.
  • We have no idea what exactly the woman is trying to get rid of, but it definitely has something to do with those "lifelong hidings."
  • Now we're gonna go ahead and guess that those "hidings" refer to painful, violent memories—kind of like those described in the fourth and fifth stanzas.
  • The woman is walking around with all this pain and frustration, and the only way she can think to deal with it is by whipping this poor little kid. 
  • In the woman's mind, the boy is transformed into one of the guilty parties from her past, and she beats him in order to get back ("avenge") at whoever has hurt her.
  • We can summarize the whole sequence of events as follows:
    1. The woman is beaten or hurt by somebody, and has to deal with lots of pain.
    2. That somebody is no longer in her life.
    3. She has to go through life hiding all this pain, and that makes her really upset.
    4. The person who hurt her is gone, so she finds a substitute person and takes her anger out on him.
    5. She feels "purged" or relieved after the beating.
  • Whew, life's a hugely complicated cycle of violence now isn't it? It sure is.
  • It may seem kind of weird, but we've all experienced something kind of like this. 
  • You know how sometimes when you've had a horrible day and are super-angry? Sometimes after a day like that you might slam the car door, or knock stuff off of your desk just because you're mad.
  • It's the same thing with the woman, only she's had a horrible life, not just a horrible day. So she's taking her anger out on another human being. 
  • Hmm, something just doesn't seem right here. The woman is now relaxed and "purged," but how long will this last?
  • We know from the first stanza that the woman whips this boy a lot, so it's probably just a matter of time before she does it again.
  • This poem leaves us with the sad reality that taking our anger out on other people, and answering violence with more violence, is really only just a temporary solution.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...