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Mrs. Whipple is a woman who seems caught between various pressures and conflicts. She is responsible for caring for her second son, who, the narrator tells us, is "simple-minded." However, she so strongly insists on repeating comments that stress her love and devotion towards this child that it seems others around her begin to suspect that she might be protesting too much. To others, they can only look at the Whipple family and hope that this second son dies soon in order to free them from having to look after him. Note what the neighbours say to each other in private:
This didn’t keep the neighbors from talking plainly among themselves. “A Lord’s pure mercy if He should die,” they said. “It’s the sins of the fathers,” they agreed among themselves. “There’s bad blood and bad doings somewhere, you can bet on that.” This behind the Whipples’ back. To their faces everybody said, “He’s not so bad off. He’ll be all right yet. Look how He grows!”
The way in which the neighbours, who can observe the situation, thinks it would be "A Lord's pure mercy" were the second son to die clearly indicates that a lot of Mrs. Whipple's time and energy is taken up with looking after him, even though she would disagree with that. It certainly seems curious that Mrs. Whipple does everything she can to try and stress her son is just the same as any other child and that there is nothing wrong with him, even taking this to rather extreme lengths, insisting that a blanket be taken from his cot for her daughter's bed during winter, because her second son is so strong and hearty that he does not feel the cold.
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