“Referential” Lorrie Moore

What stood out most to me in Lorrie Moore’s “Referential” is her use of detail. The way in which she describes each image is creative. “The thin scars on her son’s arms sometimes seemed to spell out Pete’s name, the loss of fathers etched primitively in an algebra of skin.” (p139) Algebra is such a strange choice in the description of skin, and yet she makes it work. Although, Pete’s physical appearance is never described except for his hands Moore creates a vivid image of the mother and son. The mother’s “graying hair undyed and often pinned up with strands hanging down like spanish moss.” (139) She goes on later to describe the sons acne covered face, and uneven haircut. No feature is just listed, each image is unique.

The story is made up of two stories; one in which the mother deals with her mentally sick son and the other in which the mother deals with her relationship to Pete. I felt lonely for the mother at the end. She lost her first husband, she can’t help her son, and her relationship with Pete has fallen apart. It seems like Pete is just a filler in the story. When the phone rings and the mother tells Pete someone is calling from his apartment he says he has to leave. It’s clear that Pete has a separate life away from the mother, and her son. I felt that Pete still stuck around, because he had been around for so long already and he felt he had some sort of obligation to the mother and son. “The love they had for Pete was long and winding, with hidden turns but no real halts.” (p138) After I read the story and went back to read the beginning I felt like this quote meant that they had loved Pete for a long time now and especially for the mom maybe the love had taken some turns or changed its course, but it never stopped. The fact that Pete is still around even though he doesn’t seem into it anymore makes me feel like this is the way its always going to be. Having a mentally challenged son limits her relationships with others. We see this in the tension that has built up over the years in her relationship with Pete. The mother has grown old with Pete, and it doesn’t seem like she has a lot of other options especially when her son considers him his stepdad.


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September 11th


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