Part 1 Summary

(Short Stories for Students)

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The short story ‘‘He’’ starts with a brief description of the poverty in which the Whipples live. Very quickly, the narrator makes it known that Mr. and Mrs. Whipple have two different ways of deal ing with their lack of material wealth. The narrator implies that Mr. Whipple leans toward the pessimistic side of life, bemoaning his fate and seeing no way out of it. Mrs. Whipple, on the other hand, tends to take ‘‘what was sent and calling it good,’’ at least this is her attitude whenever she is in the company of neighbors, or even within ‘‘earshot’’ of them. This clues the reader that Mrs. Whipple is into the appearance of things, working toward the goal of making her family appear to be in the good graces of life, even if she must suffer to do so. Appearances are important to her in part because she cannot ‘‘stand to be pitied.’’

Immediately following this description of the mother and father, the narrator declares that Mrs. Whipple loves her second son, even more so than she loves her ‘‘other two children put together.’’ At times, Mrs. Whipple is so drawn to making sure that everyone understands how much she loves her son that she would also declare that she loves him more than all her family members put together. Mr. Whipple reminds her that she does not have to make such statements so often, not that anyone would suspect otherwise, but rather that other people might begin to think that he, Mr. Whipple, in contrast, does not love his son at all.

The child to whom they are referring is simply called ‘‘He.’’ The narrator refers to this boy as ‘‘the simple-minded one.’’ The neighbors, behind the Whipples’ backs, blame the father’s bad blood for having produced such a child. To the Whipples’ faces, the neighbors encourage the parents, searching for positive comments, such as: ‘‘Look how He grows!’’

Mrs. Whipple is uncomfortable talking about her mentally handicapped son. However, whenever anyone comes to the house, the conversation always turns to him. Once the conversation is started, Mrs. Whipple talks about the positive attributes that He has, such as the fact that He never gets hurt. She attributes this feat to something that a preacher once told her about the innocent walking with God. Mrs. Whipple took this to mean that God was sheltering her son. It is through this thought that she can accept her son, be proud of him, at least in her conversations with her neighbors.

There are other reasons that Mrs. Whipple has created to help her accept her son. He never whines for food like her other children. He works harder and never complains, even when he gets stung by the bees when he gathers their honey. When her other children get cold in the winter, Mrs. Whipple takes His blanket off of him and gives it to one of her other children. He never, Mrs. Whipple believes, ‘‘seemed to mind the cold.’’

Mrs. Whipple does worry about him sometimes, though; especially when neighbors come over and tell her that she should keep him from climbing trees, fearing He might hurt himself because He does not know what He is doing. This angers Mrs. Whipple for two reasons. She is well aware that He could fall, and this does make her feel some concern. However, at the same time, she is also proud that He can climb so well. She even thinks that He is as agile as a monkey. She does not need to have the neighbors remind her to be worried about Him, though, and she particularly does not need to have the neighbors state that He does not know what he is doing. This is an insult that Mrs. Whipple cannot stand. Contradicting her emotions, after the neighbors leave, Mrs. Whipple calls him out of the tree and beats him for acting in such a way in front of the neighbors.

Later, Mr. Whipple makes the statement that the reason that He does not complain when he gets hurt or when he is cold or hungry is because He does not have the sense to complain. Mrs. Whipple, of course, berates...

(The entire section is 1,500 words.)