Summary of "He" by Katherine Anne Porter (short story)
“He” is the name of the disabled boy of the family Whipples. He seems to be slow in his thinking. He cannot speak and never gets hurt or at least He does not notice it. The family Whipples also has two other daughters Elmy and Adna. He is ten years old and the other ones are older than Him.
The family has a farm where everyone helps, but still they are poor and have it hard in life and it gets worse and worse.
The mother is terrified of what the neighbours might say about her and Him. That’s why she protects him too much and always tries to give her best to be a very good mother for him. When she talks with the neighbours, she claims that she loves him more than the other two and sometimes she says that even more than her mother and her husband Mr Whipple all four together. She is very afraid of a negative opinion of the neighbours and that something could happen to Him.
The next winter, He gets ill. He seems to have a fit and the parents try to do anything and everything for Him for two days, but it does not get any better. So they sent Him to the doctor. The doctor told them that they must keep him as warm as possible with all their blankets and give him a lot of food such as milk and eggs. Otherwise, he will have pneumonia.
The parents follow his advice and in early spring, he seems to be fine again.
Later, Adna and Elmy will move out and moving into town where the one studies and the other one will work in a grocery store, where there is money to earn. At that time, the family Whipples has become poorer than ever before and it will not get any better.
The same summer, the bull should come over for fertilization. It is only three miles away and Mrs. Whipples sends Him to get the bull. At the beginning, she was quite calm, but she got more and more nervous and had real anxiety states, because the bull could do something to Him and he might have not enough sense to run away. The mother bursts into tears, although nothing happened to Him.
The next winter, he slipped on icy ground. But he did not get up, but started to roll around and to blubber. The father went immediately to the doctor several times. He was kept as warm as possible all the time and they cared about him more than ever.
One day, the doctor told them that He will never get better ever again. He also suggests sending him in a County Home. Mrs Whipples does not like the idea at the beginning and says that the doctor only said this, because they would not have soon enough money to pay the bills. But she realizes that she has no other choice if she wants to have Him alive.
A neighbour with a carryall brought Mrs and Mr Whipples and Him to the hospital. In the carryall, she saw that He shed big tears as if he would make her responsible for something. This could be that he did not want to go and get the bull, because he was too afraid, but could not tell her or that in the first winter (where the family already did not have enough money) he was cold, because she took some of his blankets and gave it to Elmy and Adna, because they have a very long way to school and so on.