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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 371

‘‘Souvenir’’ is related by an omniscient narrator. This narration is occasionally supplanted by dialogue between characters. The story begins with the information that the story’s protagonist, Kate, has always sent her mother a Valentine’s Day card, timed to arrive precisely on the holiday. This year, however, Kate has forgotten until it is too late for a timely mailing. She waits until the evening of the holiday and telephones her mother instead. Their conversation provides insight into their professional lives and their relationship.

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The next morning, Kate’s brother Robert phones to tell her that her mother is in the hospital. Kate flies to the hometown that Robert and her mother never left and meets her brother at the hospital. He insists that they keep from their mother the truth about her condition: that she suffers from a possibly malignant brain tumor and that the surgery itself may prove debilitating or fatal. Kate dislikes the deception, but Robert points out that they will know nothing for certain until after the surgery, which may in fact be entirely successful.

Kate and Robert visit with her mother. Some tension is evident between them, which their mother skillfully diffuses by joking with them. Alone in the room after Robert leaves and her mother has been taken away for more medical testing, Kate finds that her mother has brought with her all of the Valentines that Kate has sent her over the years. She spends the night watching over her mother. The next morning they eat breakfast together and look out the hospital room window at a fair or carnival set up in a park across the highway. They reminisce about the county fairs and carnivals that Kate loved as a child, and Kate offers to ask her mother’s doctor if they can walk over to the park.

The two women cross a pedestrian footbridge and approach the park and its amusement rides. They ride the Ferris wheel together, Kate holding her mother’s hand at first and then grasping the metal safety bar. Her mother tells her calmly that she knows ‘‘what you haven’t told me’’ about her condition. Mother and daughter gaze levelly at one another and the story ends.

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Themes