The Moustache by Robert Cormier Setting

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

It's a little walk down memory lane for Mike and his grandmother at the nursing home in 'The Moustache.' In this lesson, you'll learn more about the setting (and a possible time period) for this story.

The Nursing Home

Have you ever spent much time in a nursing home? Many people avoid these facilities because of their hospital-like appearance, noises and smells. But, it's not any of these traits that gets to the main character in the Robert Cormier story, ''The Moustache.''

A good portion of The Moustache takes place inside of a nursing home.
moustache, setting, robert, cormier

Rather, during a visit with his grandmother, Mike's own mustache becomes a cause of discomfort when his resemblance to his grandfather transports him back to the past.

Setting in ''The Moustache''

The majority of the story ''The Moustache'' consists of interactions between Mike and his grandmother at the nursing home where she now resides. We learn early in the story that Mike's grandmother, Meg, has suffered health conditions both physical and mental, and she can no longer live at home or with her family.

The nursing home is called Lawnrest, a term that Mike thinks ''is a terrible cemetery kind of name.'' We discover that Mike, like a lot of people, is not too fond of the nursing home setting because it reminds him of hospitals, and hospitals turn him off.

The Interior

Yet, this nursing home is different. Mike explains that ''Inside, I was surprised by the lack of hospital smell, although there was another odor or maybe the absence of an odor. The air was antiseptic, sterile. As if there was no atmosphere at all, or I'd caught a cold suddenly and couldn't taste or smell.''

It's hard to say if Mike's assessment here is valid or if he's suffering from his own guilt complex for not wanting to be there. Mike actually lingers in the parking lot of the nursing home for quite a while. When he remembers all the presents his grandmother has purchased for him over the years he finally gets out of the car and goes inside.

As Mike makes his way down the tiled corridor to his grandmother's room in East Three, he is pleasantly surprised at the walls ''painted with cheerful colors like yellow and pink''.

Wax Museum

It's during this walk that Mike develops another feeling about the nursing home, comparing it to a wax museum. A wax museum generally has lifelike wax figures of famous people and celebrities for visitors to check out. The wax figures, in Mike's mind, are the residents he sees as he peers in each door heading down the hallway: ''figures in various stances and attitudes, sitting in beds or chairs, standing at windows, as if they were frozen forever in these postures.''

Luckily for Mike, when he gets to his grandmother's room, she is clear-minded, but he questions even this: ''...are old people in a place like this so lonesome, so abandoned that they go wild when someone visits? Or was she so happy because she was suddenly lucid and everything was sharp and clear?'' In Mike's mind, the nursing home is a lonely place.

Despite his perceptions, Mike hears a variety of noises during his visit: ''Somewhere a toilet flushed. A wheelchair passed the doorway ... A television set exploded with sound, somewhere, soap-opera voices filling the air.'' Being surrounded by constant noise, yet feeling lonely, must be difficult for Mike to wrap his mind around.

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