‘Rose’ by Mavis Gallant

Rose by Mavis Gallant, 1960

The magic trick:

Making the ambiguity of a Christmas memory the story’s main theme

The story shows its hand in the first sentence: Childhood recollected is often hallucination. The rest of the text goes on to demonstrate this point. The childhood recollection in question is a girl’s fuzzy memory of a mysterious family member. Did she meet her? Did she imagine it? I don’t know. Childhood is hallucination. And that’s quite a trick on Gallant’s part.

The selection:

On the journey home, Germaine and I do not discuss Rose. I suspect Germaine of being an accomplice. She wound the gramophone. But I tell my parents: I say that we saw Rose, that there were biscuits, and a tree.”

“Oh, she wouldn’t.”

But they exchange a look, which I catch. They say I am making it up. “We shall ask Grandmother,” they warn.

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