Could something as simple as a moustache spark long-buried memories? In this lesson, you’ll learn more about the short story, ‘The Moustache,’ penned by Robert Cormier, and the power of memory.
Maybe it was a favorite song, a smell or a return trip to a location loaded with significance that caused you to remember something important. A favorite song reminds you of a Friday night riding in the car with friends after the high school football game. A smell returns you to your grandmother’s kitchen at Thanksgiving.In ”The Moustache,” something as simple as facial hair sparks a memory in a 17-year-old boy’s grandmother. It’s a moment that satisfies a long-buried secret, for one, and gives another a fresh perspective on life. Let’s examine the story.
What is ”The Moustache” About?
When the story opens, we meet the narrator, Mike, who is about to set out for a visit to Lawnrest to see his grandmother. His sister, Annie, is supposed to go with him, but is sick. Mike is being given an inspection by his mother, who is checking out his hair and his relatively new moustache. The narrator tells us he decided to grow a moustache to prove a point that he could, but he’d since grown to like it.His mother says the moustache is costing him money, simply because it makes him look older than his 17 years. Even the movie attendant had charged him the full ticket price for him and his girlfriend, Cindy, at a recent show.
The narrator, Mike, who is named for his grandfather, is about to set off. His mother says, ”Your grandmother probably won’t even recognize you,” but he heads out.
Before she was afflicted both by memory loss and a condition that causes hardening of her arteries, Mike’s grandmother: ”She used to make the greatest turkey dressing in the world and was a nut about baseball and could even quote batting averages, for crying out loud.”Mike isn’t crazy about the idea of a visit to the nursing home because ”they reminded me of hospitals and hospitals turn me off.” But, he was looking forward to driving his dad’s new Le Mans and speeding to 75mph.Mike arrives at the nursing home and sits for a while in the parking lot, thinking how he’d rather be with his girlfriend. But, guilt over all the birthday and Christmas gifts received from his grandmother pushes him out of the car and inside the nursing home.
In the Nursing Home
Mike is pleasantly surprised by the inside of the nursing home: ”I was surprised by the lack of hospital smell,” he offered, and said he ”was glad to see that the walls were painted with cheerful colors like yellow and pink.”As he walks down the hall, he peers into rooms and becomes depressed at the sight of figures frozen in various stances: ”…it was like some kind of wax museum.”Mike’s grandmother is watching television, and her eyes light up at the sight of him, ”Mike, Mike, I didn’t think you’d come,” she said.She starts describing a bird feeder outside her window, but Mike discovers there is no bird feeder.
She mentions a Chesterfield coat that Mike isn’t familiar with, but he tries to remember his mother’s words to be patient and gentle during his visit.
After a woman with a juice cart leaves the room, Mike’s grandmother begins recounting a story about the purchase of a piano during the Depression. She mentions ”Ellie,” (Ellen is the narrator’s mother), and Mike realizes she has him confused with her late husband, Mike’s grandfather, for whom he was named. Mike’s grandfather also wore a moustache.The visit turns mournful as Mike’s grandmother is stuck in the past. Mike tells his grandmother that he is not her husband, but her grandson.Grandmother continues talking, about all the things she would say if her husband showed up at the nursing home.
Her primary thought was to ask him to forgive her. She remembers a night where she made accusations about another woman, loud enough to wake their baby in the other room, before finding out later that her husband had been telling the truth all along: ”It was never the same after that night, was it, Mike? The glitter was gone. From you. From us. And then the accident..
. and I never had the chance to ask you to forgive me…
”Mike is taken aback by this vulnerability in his grandmother: ”Old people aren’t supposed to have those kinds of memories. You see their pictures in the family albums and that’s what they are: pictures. They’re not supposed to come to life. You drive out in your father’s Le Mans doing seventy-five on the pike and all you’re doing is visiting an old lady in a nursing home. A duty call.
And then you find out that she’s a person. She’s somebody. She’s my grandmother, all right, but she’s also herself. Like my own mother and father. They exist outside of their relationship to me.
”He finally utters the words his grandmother has been waiting to hear: ”I forgive you, Meg.”Shortly afterward, Mike leaves without a goodbye. When he gets home, his mother asks how the visit went. Mike says fine, but there’s more he wants to say: ”I wanted to ask her — hey, Mom, you and Dad really love each other, don’t you? I mean — there’s nothing to forgive between you, is there? But I didn’t.”He retreats upstairs and shaves off his moustache.
A moustache sparks memories and feelings for a 17-year-old boy and his grandmother in this short story.
Mike, who has recently grown a moustache, goes to visit his grandmother in her nursing home. Afflicted with memory troubles, his grandmother believes she is talking to her late husband and remembers a time where they had a fight, asking for Mike’s forgiveness. Mike accepts her apology and flees the nursing home.
It causes him to question how the people around him are ”real,” with their own set of emotions and problems outside of their relationship to him. He worries about his own parents. Later, he decides to shave off his moustache.