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In this lesson, we will examine the conflicts in Robert Cormier’s short story, ”The Moustache.

” This is a story about a young man who is mistaken for his grandfather by his aging grandmother.

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Story Summary

What is your biggest regret? Is there a way to make it right? ”The Moustache” by Robert Cormier is a short story about a teenaged boy named Mike who is visiting his grandmother, Nana, in a nursing home. Because of his moustache, Mike’s grandmother mistakes him for her deceased husband. As a result, Mike learns that Nana has been carrying guilt about her final argument with her husband before his death. The story is filled with both internal and external conflict that lead the reader to the conclusion that they should not let pride stand in the way of happiness. Let’s look at some examples of conflict from this story.

Internal Conflict

Internal conflict describes the struggle that a character has with himself.

Mike, the narrator, claims, ”I’m loaded with guilt complexes.” Guilt is a sign of an internal struggle between doing what is right and doing what you feel like doing at the moment. Mike feels guilty about driving too fast, despite his promises to his father.

He also feels guilty because, even though he is visiting his grandmother who has always been good to him, he really would rather be doing something else.When he sees Nana, he realizes that she is making confessions to him; she confuses him with his grandfather. Mike struggles with deciding if he should humor her or stop her.

Mike thinks he can’t ‘`’keep up the pretense any longer, adding one more burden to my load of guilt,” but Nana persists. Despite the discomfort Mike experiences, by continuing the charade, he is able to help Nana reconcile her biggest regret, which is Nana’s internal struggle.Thinking that Mike is her husband, she says, ”I’ve thought and thought about it. And I finally made up my mind — I’d ask you to forgive me. I was too proud to ask before.” Nana’s pride prevented her from asking for her husband’s forgiveness while he was still alive.

She never expected him to leave her so suddenly and has lived with remorse ever since.

External Conflict

External conflicts are struggles between characters or society. Although Mike has a great relationship with his mother, the moustache has created an external conflict between them. His mother says that ”a seventeen-year-old has no business wearing a moustache’.’ The moustache is more than just an irritant to his mother. Mike’s girlfriend, Cindy, doesn’t much care for it either.

Further, it is expensive because he is unable to get a student discount at the movies because of it. Despite all of the external conflicts it causes, Mike likes how grown-up it makes him feel until he finds himself in an uncomfortable conversation with his grandmother. The conversation inspires him to shave it off.Nana’s external conflict is with her husband after she becomes jealous of him and another woman. Later, she learns that her husband had done nothing wrong, but after her accusation,”the glitter was gone. From you.

From us.” Afterwards, she can’t even remember the name of the woman at the center of the rift that resulted in a permanent change to her relationship.

Lesson Summary

In ”The Moustache”, an example of an internal conflict is the guilt that Mike faces when he drives too fast or dreads visiting Nana.

Mike knows that the right thing to do isn’t always fun. This guilt returns when Nana mistakes him for his grandfather, creating some discomfort for Mike. Mike discovers that Nana has also carried guilt because she allowed her pride to get in the way of her relationship with her husband. Nana and her husband had a conflict just before his accident that changed their relationship.

Nana accused her husband of an impropriety with another woman that she later learned had never happened. Things were never quite the same afterward. Other external conflicts in the story come from Mike’s moustache.

Mike’s mother doesn’t like it and neither does his girlfriend. Further, Mike has to pay more in movies because it makes him appear older. Mike wants to look older but realizes after his conversation with Nana that it isn’t worth it.

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