In the story "He" by Katherine Porter, the main character Mrs. Whipple is often seen as a cruel, neglectful mother who mistreats her son, and there is ample evidence to support this view. But there is another away to look at Mrs. Whipple: she can also be perceived as a pitiful mother being forced to raise a retarded child that is totally incapable of returning her love. After closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that Mrs. Whipple does the best she can under very harsh circumstances, to raise and nurture her son to the best of her ability. She treats her son the way she does out of necessity and therefore should not be hated or pitied for her treatment of Him. In his book, The Texas Legacy of Katherine Anne Porter, James Tanner states "not many of us could-under the dreadfully circumscribed conditions imposed by the author-measure up so well as Mrs. Whipple under such adversity" (104).
The Whipples are poor, lower-class people struggling to feed and clothe their children, and make ends meet. Mrs. Whipple is a very proud woman who does not want to be judged by others. She desires respect, and because of this she often makes decisions that do not seem to be in her family's best interest. It often appears as if Mrs. Whipple cares more about what her neighbors think than she does about her relationship with her son, He. For example, she makes Him come down from the tree just because a neighbor says it may be dangerous, and she constantly justifies and makes excuses to others for the way she treats Him. The truth is, she does these things because of her pride; as a human being it is in her nature to be concerned with what other people think about her. This does not m...
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...rter's Artistic Development. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1989.
Porter, Katherine Anne. "He." The Literature of the American South. Ed. William L. Andrews. New York: Norton. 1998. 596-603.
Tanner, James T.F. The Texas Legacy of Katherine Anne Porter. Denton: U North Texas P, 1990.
Unrue, Darlene Harbour. Truth and Vision in Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction. Athens: U Georgia P, 1985.
Hendrick, Willene and George Hendrick. Katherine Anne Porter. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Jorgensen, Bruce W. "The Other Side of Silence: Katherine Anne Porter's 'He' as Tragedy." Modern Fiction Studies 3 28 (1982).
Moddelmog, Debra A. "Narrative Irony and Hidden Motivations in Katherine Anne Porter's 'He'." Modern Fiction Studies 3 28 (1982). Rpt in Modern Critical Views, Katherine Anne Porter. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House 1986. 117-125.
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