Referential Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 21 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Referential.
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Referential Summary & Study Guide Description

Referential Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Referential by Lorrie Moore.

The following version of this story was used to create this study guide: Moore Lorrie. “Referential.” Bark. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. Pages 149 – 157.

The story opens with an unnamed woman and her lover, Pete. The woman is middle-aged, and Pete’s age is never stated, but he appears to be older than the woman. They have been in a relationship for the past eight years. They are not married, and they do not live together. The woman is a widow, and her 16-year-old son has been residing in a mental institution for the past three years. The son began developing symptoms of mental illness at the age of 12. Pete seems to slowly be withdrawing from the woman and the son due to the son’s mental illness, although the woman and the son still wish for Pete to be consistently present in their lives. Pete is recently unemployed, and he sometimes goes for weeks without contacting the woman in any way.

In the main narrative, the woman and Pete prepare to visit the son in the institution on the son’s birthday. Lately, Pete has not usually accompanied the woman on visits to the institution. The son suffers from paranoia and delusions, as well as tendencies towards physical self-harm. When the woman and Pete visit the son, the son directs most of his questions and comments to Pete, asking why Pete has not visited in a while, and implying that Pete’s absences are cruel. Pete remains generally reticent and evasive in response to these questions and comments. While Pete drives the woman back to her house, she and Pete do not converse with one another. The woman is saddened by the growing rift between her and Pete.

At her house, the woman offers Pete a drink, and Pete accepts. The woman looks at the photographs on her refrigerator and contemplates the ways in which life seems inherently defined by pain and suffering. The woman maintains hope that Pete will someday agree to be a bigger part of her and her son’s lives. The phone rings, and the woman answers it, but the person on the other end hangs up. The woman says that according to the caller ID, the person was calling from Pete’s apartment phone. Pete says that he must leave, and he acts distant and evasive. After Pete leaves, the narration reveals that the woman could not read the caller ID without her glasses; she lied about the caller ID number to see how Pete would react. At the end of the story, the phone rings again. The woman answers it, but the person on the other end hangs up again.

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