Study Guide

The Whipping The Home

By Robert Hayden

The Home

Home? What home? There's hardly any home to speak of in "The Whipping." Yep, that's exactly the point. All the things we tend to think of when it comes to a home (dinner on the table, comfy couches, a loving family) are completely absent from this poem. In fact, all we really know is that there is a bedroom where the boy sobs after his whipping and a whole lot of plants. This tells us a lot, most importantly, that anything "homely" about this place has long since gone bye-bye. It's more like a desolate wilderness now, with the human equivalent of a lion or tiger (the woman) chasing her prey (the boy).

Questions About The Home

  1. Where is the speaker of this poem? Is he in his own "home"? What might his "home" be like?
  2. What do you make of all the plants in this poem? Do they seem like your typical household decorations?
  3. Is there any hope for the "home" described in this poem? Or is it destined to be a violent place forever?
  4. Why is the relationship between the woman and the boy never really specified? What effect does this have on your reading?

Chew on This

Violence destroys homes. The home in this poem, for example, is more like a jungle, a wild and scary place, than a home.

If this poem is any indication, broken, unhomely homes are more common than we might think. And that's just… terrible.

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