The Moustache by Robert Cormier Quotes

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina has taught English, has an MFA in Creative Writing, and has several published novels and short stories.

There's more to life than a moustache, and Mike, a character in Robert Cormier's 'The Moustache,' recognizes this when he visits his grandmother. Throughout the story, Mike provides various quotes and insights about the nursing home, his grandmother, and postponement.

Revelations From a Moustache

Mike is seventeen. He enjoys his moustache. Like many young men, he goes to the movies, he respects his mother's wishes, and he likes to drive fast. While wearing a moustache may not be life-changing for some, Mike's moustache lets him see his grandmother as a real person; it also helps her come to peace with herself.

The quotes in this lesson from Robert Cormier's ''The Moustache'' help to show Mike's revelations.

Mike has a new moustache

The Nursing Home Trials

Per his mother's wishes, Mike heads to his grandmother's nursing home, Lawnrest, ''a terrible cemetery kind of name.'' He's apprehensive because of the name. Yet, he motivates himself to enter. At first, he's taken aback. ''I was surprised by the lack of hospital smell. . .The air was antiseptic, sterile.'' The air is cold; he can't taste or smell, ''As if there was no atmosphere at all....'' It's not the most welcoming institution.

Initially, Mike was eager to drive his father's new car instead of puttering in the family's station wagon. But the danger of speeding down the highway is no match for the nursing home traffic, as ''A wheelchair suddenly shot around a corner, self-propelled by an old man, white-haired and toothless, who cackled merrily as he barely missed me.''

Mike dodges a speeding old man in the hallway
Smirking Man

As Mike strolls through the halls to his grandmother's room, he observes, ''it was like some kind of wax museum.'' It's as though life has already left the living bodies. His encounter with a nurse delivering juice is also disconcerting: ''The woman looked at me and winked. A conspiratorial kind of wink. It was kind of horrible. I didn't think people winked like that anymore.'' He persists, though, it's his duty.

Visions of Nana

Before Mike visits his grandmother, his mother had prepared him for his visit. Since being in a nursing home, ''her memory has betrayed her as well as her body.'' At times, his ''grandmother suddenly emerged from the fog that so often obscured her mind.'' Mike anticipates his grandmother being confused, possibly not recognizing who he is.

He has positive mental images of his grandmother, comparing her to Ethel Barrymore. He observes, ''Both my grandmother and Ethel Barrymore have these great craggy faces like the side of a mountain and wonderful voices like syrup being poured.'' And, as he sees her, his opinion is right on.

Ethel Barrymore is a spitting image of nana
Ethel Barrymore

Life, however, has changed her: ''Her skin was smooth, almost slippery, as if the years had worn away all the roughness, the way the wind wears away the surfaces of stones.'' He has difficulty understanding what, however, is real. Her eyes are bright and radiant, although Mike questions if this is a ''medicine brightness.''

Postponing Life

Prior to journeying to the nursing home, Mike's mother wants him to get rid of his moustache. He placates her by saying he's thinking about shaving it, thinking ''You can build a way of life on postponement.'' His observation takes on a new meaning after he visits his grandmother in the nursing home.

Mike doesn't initially recognize the similarities between he and his grandfather, who died forty years prior. Mike's mother always said he took after her side of the family. And, he is named after his grandfather, both named Michael and addressed as Mike.

The similarities are even more uncanny once Mike realizes that his grandmother thinks he is her late husband, in part because Mike's grandfather ''. . .wore a moustache. I brought my hand to my face. I also wore a moustache now.'' There's more to this mistaken identity, aside from his looks, aside from his moustache. There's something his grandmother has postponed.

Nana has life of memories

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