“the Whipping” Poetry Response

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“The Whipping” by Robert Hayden discusses a woman beating another child as a punishment. It isn’t stated that “The Old Woman” is the child’s mother; however, it is implied through the scenario. In line 2 it is said that the whipping is happening again, showing that this is a regular occurrence. In line 4, “Her goodness and his wrongs” implies that the woman is hypocritical for beating the child. The second, third, and fourth stanzas continue with a vivid depiction of the beating. However, it is in lines 16-17 where the author acknowledges the idea that the beatings where far much worse than any hateful words. In the last stanza, the beating ends and the author says “avenged in part for lifelong hiding she has had to bear”. This shows that the woman was beaten in the past and the poem delves into the idea that those that are hurt tend to hurt others as well. My response to this idea is that people do indeed hurt others if they tend to be hurt, many like to inflict the pain they received on someone else as a way of feeling better about themselves. Hence the “lifelong hidings” is the woman’s past that she keeps a secret. I believe the poem effectively sheds light on this abuse by not victimizing the woman or the boy in particular and by showing both sides to the story because although the abuse isn’t morally justified, there is a history behind the woman and the boy.
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