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In this lesson, we will analyze the themes of the short story ‘The Moustache’ by Robert Cormier. This is a story about a young man whose grandmother confuses him for her deceased husband because of his moustache.

The Moustache

Think about a time when an elderly relative said something to you that revealed they were confused about the time, place, or the people around them. Did you correct them or follow along? When Mike, the narrator, goes to visit his grandmother in a nursing home to relieve his mother, the moustache he has been wearing to try to look older confuses his grandmother.

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She thinks that Mike is her deceased husband, who was also named Mike. When Mike realizes that his grandmother is about to make a confession, he tries to stop her, but she interrupts him and finishes explaining to him what has been on her mind for years. Afterwards, his grandmother seems to feel better, but Mike shaves off the moustache to keep from being stuck in that position again. Let’s examine some of the themes from this story.

Growing Up

One of the themes, or main points of the story surrounds itself with trying to grow up too fast. Mike gives several hints that he is anxious to be an adult, such as liking his sister’s boyfriend because ”he doesn’t treat me like Annie’s kid brother.” His mother hates his moustache and believes he is way too young at 17 years of age to be wearing one.

As a result, he is unable to get the student discount at the movie theater because he looks too old, but Mike thinks it is worth it. However, when he visits his grandmother and finds himself in the middle of an adult situation that he is not prepared to handle, Mike realizes that there is nothing wrong with being young for a little bit longer. As soon as he gets home, he ”took out the electric razor Annie had given me for Christmas and shaved off my moustache.”

Forgiveness

Another theme is about forgiveness. Mike’s grandmother struggles with her memory and has a hard time recognizing people, yet there has been something that has weighed on her mind for many years that she feels like she needs to get off her chest. Mike’s grandmother, thinking Mike is her husband, says, ”And I think of that terrible night, Mike, that terrible night. Have you ever really forgiven me for that night?” Many years ago, Mike’s grandmother had accused his grandfather of some type of impropriety with another girl.

She later learned that her husband had done nothing wrong, but it changed their relationship forever. In her confusion, Mike’s grandmother insists that Mike tell her that he forgives her. Afterwards, Mike wonders if his parents have anything they need to forgive one another for. Mike realizes that love requires the ability to show enough humility to ask for forgiveness and the strength to give it. Further, the story reveals the sadness that comes with living with regrets and offers a reminder to settle differences while you can.

Lesson Summary

‘The Moustache’ is a short story that deals with the themes of trying to grow up too fast and forgiveness. Mike, the narrator, thinks that he’s ready to be treated like an adult and grows a moustache so that he will appear older. He deals with the fact that it results in having to pay higher prices at the movies since he doesn’t look like a student, but when he is placed in an adult position of being mistaken for his grandfather by his grandmother, Mike realizes that he wants to be still young a little longer and he shaves it off. The story also deals with forgiveness as his aging grandmother remembers very little, but clearly recalls the regrets she has over accusing her husband of being unfaithful.

She later learned it wasn’t true, but was too proud to ask for forgiveness. Mike uses this situation to learn about how love and forgiveness are intertwined. Further, it serves as a warning about living with regrets.

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