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. ...
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...s moving and darkly humorous look at family dynamics. It certainly makes a clear statement against concern for appearances at all costs. It also explores the idea of "motherly love" and how good intentions can go bad. In the end, however, this story is just appearances at all costs. It also explores the idea of "motherly love" and how good intentions can go bad. In the end, however, this story is just depressing. We feel very sorry for -- and a little true sympathy for -- Mrs. Whipple and her family. Nevertheless, we cannot agree that it was "a mortal pity He was ever born," for we know that "she had loved Him as much as she possibly could"; in light of all her other concerns and preoccupations, however, it just wasn't enough.
Porter, Katherine Anne. "He." The Literature of the American South. Ed. William L. Andrews. New York: Norton. 1998.
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