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Jack o’ lanterns are one of the most classic symbols of Halloween; they line the porches of houses all over the U.S. (and other countries). Historically, they were used to frighten off the undead and other evil spirits. In the short story “Yours,” by Mary Robison, fall has arrived and husband and wife Clark and Allison are carving pumpkins for the children’s day-care center that Allison volunteers at.

Early on in the story, we learn that there is a significant age difference between Clark and Allison; he is seventy-eight and she is thirty-five. We would automatically assume that Clark should be the one who is slowing down, but it seems like Allison is the one who is ailing. She wears a “natural-hair wig,” which could indicate that she has undergone radiation treatment for cancer. She behaves like a healthy person, but towards the end of the story, we learn that she was never expected to survive. “…A few weeks earlier in her life than was expected,” the narrator tells us, “Allison began to die.”

The story concludes with Clark speaking on the phone, presumably calling the hospital. As he makes his call, he watches the jack o’ lanterns, and they seem to stare back at him. This is a powerful image to end the story with; as his wife is dying, he is watching the symbols that are supposed to keep death at bay

 

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