Examination Of Characters In Katherine Anne Porter's Short Story He

1086 words - 4 pages

Examination of Characters in Katherine Anne Porter's Short Story He


Katherine Anne Porter's moving and stylistically cohesive short story "He" contains much worth discussing. The story's characters are quite memorable and provide for interesting character studies; in addition, the plot and themes of the story are also noteworthy.

The most elaborately detailed character is Mrs. Whipple. She is the dominating member of the Whipple family; despite her belief in "men's work" as opposed to women's, she seems to have a great deal of say in family decisions. Mrs. Whipple is extremely concerned with status and appearances -- indeed, overly so. This preoccupation of hers is prominent throughout the story, from beginning to end. She is concerned, first of all, with making sure that no one else is aware of her family's poverty. She mentions, when things are going particularly bad for the Whipple, that "[The neighbors]'ll be calling us poor white trash next," and we know that would be tantamount to death for Mrs. Whipple. She is so concerned with keeping up appearances, in fact, that she goes against the advice of her husband and butchers a sucking pig when her brother, his "plump wife" and two "roaring hungry" boys come to visit. Although this will hurt them in the long run, Mrs. Whipple simply cannot bear to admit the inadequacy of her family's income. Mrs. Whipple knows her family, especially her the long run, Mrs. Whipple simply cannot bear to admit the inadequacy of her family's income. Mrs. Whipple knows her family, especially her "simple-minded" son, is not like others, but she tries desperately to make them appear normal. Thus her other preoccupation lies in protecting her "simple-minded" son. We learn that Mrs. Whipple loved Him better than her other children, or at least "She was forever saying so." Mrs. Whipple has an odd way of showing her love, however. It seems as though the Whipples take advantage of their son's retardation. They never speak directly to Him, and refer to their son only as "He" and "Him"; thus, we never learn His name. They also take advantage of the fact that He seems indifferent to pain or cold, so they give His blankets to the other children, and give Him tasks the other children seem to have sense enough not to do. By the end of the story, we learn that He might not be as dumb as He appears. Nevertheless, we know that Mrs. Whipple does love her son (as well as her other children). She constantly talks about Him, and her intense outpouring of emotion at the end of the story supports the fact that she loves Him and indicates she feels some grief about the situation. She knows that "there was nothing she could do to make up to Him for His life," and we feel the Whipples have made the right decision to put Him in the knows that "there was nothing she could do to make up to Him for His life," and we feel the Whipples have made the right decision to put Him in the County Hospital. Unfortunately for...

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