An Analysis of the Short Story "He" by Katherine Anne Porter

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A deeper look into the short story “He” written by Katherine Anne Porter brings forth four things that make the story distinctive, intriguing, and effective.

A deeper look into the short story “He” written by Katherine Anne Porter brings forth four things that make the story distinctive, intriguing, and effective. These include the point of view, the capitalizing of the pronouns “He” and “Him”, the themes isolation and fragmentations, and the last sentence of the story.

First, the commanding point of view used in the story and its efficient means of showing the pieces of the story like a jigsaw puzzle. It seems that the author has utilized twists and ironies well in the short story. The author illustrates in a clever manner an underprivileged lower class Southern family and the trials and quandaries that they face. Through the portrayal of the uncommon relationship of Mrs. Whipple with her mentally retarded son and her behavior toward “Him”, it is manifested how the story orbited around a variety of emotions, which include pride, shame, and excessive concern for appearances. Other characters, which include the husband Mr. Whipple and their two able-bodied children Emly and Adna, are dexterously used in order to widen the themes of the story and give more emphasis to the severe quirks of Mrs. Whipple.

Second, the pronouns “He” and “Him” were not capitalized for no reasons. This has a noteworthy implication in the story, as well. Mr. and Mrs. Whipple, the parents of “Him”, exerted much effort to contend with their circumstances and deal with their three children. Mrs. Whipple, who regards herself as a perfect mother, brags about the intelligence of her elder son, Adna, and the aspiration of her daughter, Emly, to become a teacher. Her other mentally retarded son, on the other hand, is the one called "He" or "Him." It is claimed by Mrs. Whipple that she loves this son best but her husband contradicts the implication that his wife is the only person who specially loves the child.

According to Mrs. Whipple, however, mothers naturally love their children better than fathers do. While a mother's natural love to their children may be true, it is ironically not noticeable in the relationship of Mrs. Whipple with her special child. In the line, “Mrs. Whipples loved her second son, the simple-minded one, better than she loved the other two children put together”, irony was most manifest in the story. This statement is suggestive of something quite the opposite and not meant well.

By revealing the distorted self-image of Mrs. Whipple, it was also shown that she does not treat her second son as benevolently as she would have people assume. In reality, she is even sorry that “He” was ever born. The sheer reference to the mentally retarded son as “He” or “Him” manifests that Mrs. Whipple hates “Him” unreasonably. The name of the special child was deliberately not mentioned in the story. Thus, the pronouns “He” and “Him” were capitalized to keep away from puzzlement in the part of the readers.

This is because there are other male characters in the story, which are the father, the Adna, and the neighbor in the ending of the story. One factor more significant than this deliberate presentation of distinctive characters is the purpose of prompting the readers to empathize with “Him”.

Third, the themes on isolation and fragmentation are also presented in the story. The part of the story that supports the theme on isolation is the depiction of Mrs. Whipple’s ironic personality. The beginning of the story shows how she exaggerates the importance of appearance. The last line of the story best supports the theme on fragmentation. This is when “they came in sight of the hospital, with the neighbor driving very fast, not daring to look behind him”.

Fourth, it is this last sentence of the story that gives a noteworthy inference. Like in other traditional stories, this concludes the story but in a quite different way. After all the intricacies of the story, the neighbor chose to save himself from getting involved in it.