Essay PreviewMore ↓
The prevailing theme in Katherine Anne Porter's story "He" is Mrs. Whipple's concern over appearances and particularly how her neighbors perceive her actions concerning her retarded son. Many critics have written about Porter's emphasis on appearances in this story. However, what lies under the surface of the story is also interesting. Contrary to both her actions and spoken words, it is clear Mrs. Whipple inwardly feels her retarded son is an animal and that she secretly wishes for his death.
The story "He" is similar to another story of Katherine Anne Porter's titled "The Downward Path to Wisdom." Both stories depict children who are retarded, who are equated to animals by one or both of the parents, and who are wished dead or never born (Weisenforth 359).
The title of the story "He" provides the reader with the first clue that the retarded son is de-humanized. Throughout the story the other two of Mrs. Whipple's children, Emly and Adna, are given names and are referred to by their given names. This is not true of the retarded son. Not once in the story is He called by his given name. In fact, the reader never learns his given name. The failure to give the retarded son a name is similar to the farm practice of giving names to pets but not to the ever-present farm animals. People generally do not name animals they plan on killing. Because Emly and Adna have names, they appear to the reader to be more human. In contrast, the failure to name the retarded son makes him appear more animal-like or less than human.
Another example of animal treatment takes place during family meals. The retarded son does not eat his meals at the table with his family. In a description of the retarded son, Porter writes "He didn't whine for food, as the other children did, but waited until it was given Him; He ate squatting in the corner, smacking and mumbling" (597). When Mrs. Whipple's brother comes for a visit, Porter writes "He wouldn't come into the dining room, and Mrs. Whipple passed it off very well" (599). For appearances sake "Mrs. Whipple loaded up a big plate for Him first, before everybody"(Porter 599). The parallels to how people treat their dogs can not be overlooked. It is common practice for dog owners to train their dogs not to beg or whine for food.
How to Cite this Page
"Mrs. Whipple's Mistreatment of Her Son in Katherine Anne Porter's He." 123HelpMe.com. 26 Jun 2019
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- Mrs. Whipple and Her Son in Katherine Porter's He 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.... [tags: Katharine Anne Porter He Essays]
1224 words (3.5 pages)
- "A great woman has gone whose name will remain an inspiration to the daughters of New Zealand, while our history endures". This quote was read at the funeral for Katherine Sheppard. The political advancement of women in New Zealand was brought about by a handful of courageous women, particularly Kate Sheppard. Kate Sheppard was born on March 10, 1847 in Liverpool, England. Her full name was Katherine Wilson Sheppard, but she preferred the name Kate. After her father's death in 1862 when Kate was only 15, Kate's mother, took her and her two older brothers over to New Zealand, in 1868 and settled in Christchurch.... [tags: Katherine Sheppard]
1329 words (3.8 pages)
- The Struggles of Grief Many experts would agree that there are different stages in grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are stages that many grief stricken people must endure to manage life after a traumatic death. The story “The Fly” by Katherine Mansfield has only a few characters in it, but those few characters show the different stages of grief. The characters illustrate how different the grieving process is when the circumstances of the deaths are the same. Mr. Woodifield is in the stage of depression, since he may have turned to harmful habits after his son’s death.... [tags: Grief, Acceptance, Family, Son]
1103 words (3.2 pages)
- Many experts would agree that there are different stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are stages that many grief stricken people must endure to manage life after a traumatic death. The story, “The Fly,” by Katherine Mansfield has only a few characters in it, but those few characters show the different stages of grief. The characters illustrate how different the grieving process is when the circumstances of the deaths are the same. Mr. Woodifield is in the stage of depression, and he may have turned to harmful habits after his son’s death.... [tags: Grief, Acceptance, Family, Son]
1104 words (3.2 pages)
- Character Analysis of Katherine Anne Porter's He In Katherine Anne Porter's short story "He," she presents several themes that she develops primarily through the actions of the main characters, particulary Mrs. Whipple. Porter portrays a poor, lower class Southern family and the difficulties they encounter. More importantly, she centers the story around the feelings of shame, pride, and an exaggerated concern for appearances through Mrs. Whipple's's relationship with her mentally retarded son and her behavior toward Him.... [tags: Katherine Anne Porter He Essays]
1194 words (3.4 pages)
- The Relationship Between Katherine and Zebra in Anchee Min's Novel, Katherine Anchee Min, a Chinese novelist, has written many books about life in China revolving around the Cultural Revolution, including her autobiography Red Azalea. In her novel Katherine (1995), readers are exposed to life after the Cultural Revolution. The story focuses on two bold characters—Katherine and Zebra. Katherine, an American schoolteacher, comes to China to teach English to the younger generation. Her western ideology—free spirit, free will, and her stylish appearance--influences her students to think differently about the ways they live.... [tags: Katherine]
671 words (1.9 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.... [tags: Katharine Anne Porter He Essays]
1043 words (3 pages)
- The Life and Work of Katherine Mansfield Born as Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand in the year 1888, Katherine Mansfield has long been celebrated as New Zealand’s most influential and important writer. Daughter of Annie Dyer and Herold Beauchamp, Mansfield was born to a wealthy businessman and a mother who was often thought to have been “aloof”. Attending school at a young age, Mansfield went to Wellington GC as well as Miss Swainson’s private school before being sent to Queen’s college in London for a more formal education.... [tags: Biography Katherine Mansfield Essays]
3644 words (10.4 pages)
- One of the themes that can be found in the stories of Katherine Mansfield centres upon the role, status, sexuality, and "place" of women in society. According to Chantal Cornut-Gentille d'Arcy, "Mansfield's succinct narratives are triumphs of style, a style which challenged the conventional parameters of nineteenth-century realism, constrained to plot, sequential development, climax, and conclusion" (244). More specifically, maintains that "even though Mansfield never acknowledged any profound engagement with Freudian approaches to sexuality or psychic disorder Mansfield moved in a context which undoubtedly indicates she was aware of Freud's ideas and discoveries" (245).... [tags: Katherine Mansfield Feminism Sex]
1598 words (4.6 pages)
- Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss" Katherine Mansfield¡¦s short story Bliss is filled with a lot of underlying mean-ings and themes. There are as well many symbols that Mansfield uses and among those the pear tree is an important one. In this essay I will prove that the pear tree is both a symbol for for Bertha and her life and the awakening of her sexuality. First I will sketch on the symbolic meanings of a pear and a tree as they are described in symbolic books and I will then focus on the pear tree in relation to Ber-tha throughout the story.... [tags: Katherine Mansfield Bliss Essays]
1562 words (4.5 pages)
- Appearance Versus Reality in Katharine Anne Porter's He
- Examination of Characters in Katherine Anne Porter's Short Story He
- Role of Women in Hemmingway's Hills like White Elephants, Lawrence's The Horse Dealers Daughter and
- Hemingway's Personal Life and its Influence on his Short Story, Hills Like White Elephants
- Setting in Ernest Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants
- Interpretations of William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily
Although it is pitiful that the retarded son gets treated like an animal, what is even more sad is Mrs. Whipple's secret wish for her son's death. The neighbors are much more frank when "talking plainly among themselves" and felt it would be "A Lord's pure mercy if He should die" (Porter 598).
On the surface it appears Mrs. Whipple has the utmost concern over her retarded son's well being. In one passage Mrs. Whipple states "I wouldn't have anything happen to him for all the world, but it looks like I can't keep him out of mischief" (Porter 597). This couldn't be farther from the truth. Not once in the story does the reader find any attempts by Mrs. Whipple to keep this son out of mischief or out of harm's way. There are several examples of Mrs. Whipple finding him climbing trees like a monkey or climbing the rafters in the barn and not making any effort to stop him. Climbing trees and rafters are clearly dangerous activities which could result in death with one small slip of the foot. In fact, Mrs. Whipple states "it's actually funny sometimes the way He can do anything; it's laughable to see Him up to His tricks" (Porter 597).
Critic Winfred Emmons writes that Mrs. Whipple "wishes He had never been born; but she practices the eleventh commandment, which is to put up the appearance of virtue if one cannot manage the real thing" (354). Although Porter writes "Mrs. Whipple's life was a torment for fear something might happen to Him" (597) and that she thought "sometimes I wish I was dead" (600), just the opposite was true. What Mrs. Whipple actually meant was that sometimes she wished He was dead and that her life was a torment for fear something wouldn't happen to him. In fact, there are three instances where Mrs. Whipple deliberately sent Him into potentially life-threatening situations.
The first example is when Mrs. Whipple is afraid she won't be able to send her retarded son out to the bees anymore due to concern expressed by her nosey neighbors. Mrs. Whipple's justification for sending her retarded son out to the bees in the first place is because "Adna can't handle them, they sting him so" (Porter 598). But of the retarded son she states "if He gets a sting He don't really mind" (Porter 598). The fact that excessive bee stings can kill is not a concern of Mrs. Whipple's when sending Him out to the bees.
The second example occurs in early Autumn with the expected arrival of Mrs. Whipple's brother and family. In this scene, Mrs. Whipple decides it would be nice to kill a suckling pig for dinner. The problem was "how to get the little pig away from his ma, a great fighter, worse than a Jersey cow. Adna wouldn't try it: 'That sow'd rip my insides out all over the pen'" (Porter 598). However, Mrs. Whipple does not hesitate to send in her retarded son to get the little suckling, justifying her actions because "He's not scared" (Porter 598) while she laughed and thought it was funny. A person's lack of fear does not have anything to do with how dangerous a situation is and, again, Mrs. Whipple is clearly not concerned with His safety.
In the final and most obvious example, Mrs. Whipple allows the retarded son to lead their neighbor's bull to their pasture for breeding. Porter writes "Mrs. Whipple was scared sick of bulls; she had heard awful stories about how they followed on quietly enough, and then suddenly pitched on with a bellow and pawed and gored a body to pieces" (601). Although she knew she shouldn't make a sound or move as soon as He got closer, "her voice burst out of her in a shriek" (601). This is the most obvious example of Mrs. Whipple's wish for His death and shows just how desperate she had become. Mrs. Whipple even put appearances aside in this one instance. Unfortunately for Mrs. Whipple, this action did not result in His death and her life continued on its downward spiral.
At the end of the story, He is being taken away to a Country Home for treatment. Mrs. Whipple assures her neighbor that "this is only for a little while" leaving the reader to conclude that this will be a permanent situation (Porter 603). In a round about way, Mrs. Whipple receives her wish. Even He came to the realization that Mrs. Whipple was finally receiving her wish for Porter writes "He was scrubbing away big tears that rolled out of the corners of His eyes" and "He seemed to be accusing her of something"( Porter 603). Perhaps not His death but His removal from her life.
Emmons, Winfred. "Katherine Anne Porter: The Regional Stories." Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Gale. Detroit, 1990. Vol. 4. 350-356.
Porter, Katherine A. "He." The Literature of the American South. Ed. William L. Andrews, et al. New York: Norton, 1998. 596-602.
Wisenfarth, Joseph. "Negatives of Hope: A Reading of Katherine Anne Porter." In Renascence. Vol. XXV. No. 2. Winter, 1973. 85-94. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Gale. Detroit, 1990. Vol. 4. 359-361.
Hardy, John E. "Katherine Anne Porter." NY: Ungar, 1973. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Gale. Detroit, 1980. Vol. 15. 428-430.
Johnson, James W. "Another Look at Katherine Anne Porter." Virginia Quarterly Review. 36:4. 1960. 598-613. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Gale. Detroit, 1977. Vol. 7. 310-312.
Liberman, M.M. "Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction." Wayne State University Press. Detroit, 1971. 87-90.
Warren, Robert P. "Uncorrupted Consciousness: The Stories of Katherine Anne Porter." The Yale Review. Vol. LV, No. 2, December 1965. 280-90. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Gale. Detroit, 1990. Vol. 4. 349-350.
Welty, Eudora. "Katherine Anne Porter: The Eye of the Story." The Yale Review. Vol. LV, No. 2. Winter 1966. 30-40. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Gale. Detroit, 1984. Vol. 27. 398-400.