Katherine Anne Porter’s “He”
In Katherine Anne Porter’s short story, “He”, Mrs. Whipple has the misfortune of a mentally retarded son. While struggling to feed and clothe the hungry mouths of her family, Mrs. Whipple tries to camouflage hatred toward her son by putting up a façade of love and concern for him in an attempt to look like a better individual.
Mr. Whipple and Mrs. Whipple’s neglect toward their son is evident right from the start by his lack of a name. He is only acknowledged as “He” or “Him”. Nance explains that this, “failure of the boy’s parents to recognize his personality, symbolized by their failure to give him a name, is the root of their error and suffering” (Nance 19). If Mr. and Mrs. Whipple would take the time to understand their son as a person and recognize his abilities, they would be able to accept his situation more easily and Mrs. Whipple could be less concerned with what people say.
The distortion of Mrs. Whipple’s concern for her son is first evident when she says,
“I wouldn’t have anything happen to Him for all the world, but it just
looks like I can’t keep Him out of mischief. He’s so strong and active;
He’s always into everything; He was like that since He could walk. It’s
actually funny sometimes, the way He can do anything; it’s laughable to
see Him up to His tricks.” (Porter 493) The truth is that Mrs. Whipple fails to put any considerable effort into keeping Him out of trouble in the first place. Mr. and Mrs. Whipple give the boy more chores because they say that He is bigger than average, and wont think twice about taking some of his blankets if the other children get cold in winter. On more than one occasion she intentionally puts Him in harms way. After receiving a letter saying that her brother and his family is coming for a visit, Mrs. Whipple insists on sacrificing a baby pig that would be worth a substantial amount of money by Christmas. With the mama pig being a great fighter, Mrs. Whipple asks...
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