What is the theme of "The Mouse"?

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The main theme of this story is the shortcomings of societal privilege.

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The theme of the short story is the way people make too much of themselves and their own importance.

In this story, a pompous and sheltered man, Theodoric, takes himself far too seriously. Riding in a train compartment he shares only with a sleeping woman he doesn't know, he becomes aware that a mouse has gotten into his clothing. He finds this quite annoying but is mortified at the idea of taking off his clothes to shake out the mouse and having the woman wake up to find him undressed. He does finally hang up his railway rug between himself and the sleeping woman, blushing to the "hue of a beetroot" as he does so. It falls down, waking her when he is undressed, so that he quickly pulls the rug over his body. She stares at him, and he has, finally, in deep embarrassment, to rush "frantically into his dishevelled garments." After all his agony and worry, he finds out in the last sentence of the story that the woman is blind.

The humor in the story arises from Theodoric putting himself through agonies for no good reason. The message is that we torture ourselves by being too focused on ourselves and what other people might think of us. Theodoric is as much the mouse in the story as the real mouse, too timid and caught up in his own self-centered sense of propriety to simply explain to the woman what happened. If he had, he would have found out she was blind and saved himself anguish. The story points to the importance of getting outside of being fixated on ourselves so that we can communicate in an authentic way with other people.

Theodoric has a "a choking, hammering sensation in his throat and heart" over an incident of no importance, while the woman has a real problem:

"Would you be so kind," she asked, "as to get me a porter to put me into a cab? It's a shame to trouble you when you're feeling unwell, but being blind makes one so helpless at a railway station."

The story is pointing out and making fun of the fact that we can be so obsessed with our own small problems that we miss helping people with genuine problems.

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Discuss one of the themes in "The Mouse."

One of the themes which develops in "The Mouse" is the shortcomings of societal privilege.

When Theodoric was young, he was quite sheltered from the "coarser realities of life" by his doting mother. When she died, Theodoric was left as a middle-aged man who was forced to navigate the realities of the world, and he became annoyed and frustrated by even the most commonplace circumstances.

Theodoric therefore has a low tolerance for life's challenges, and he is horrified while aboard the train to discover that a mouse has decided to take residence in his clothes. Because he has been so sheltered from adversity, Theodoric cannot cope with what should be a relatively minor inconvenience.

Instead, he panics. Theodoric hastily undresses and frees the mouse, but his effort awakens the sleeping female traveler who shares his space. As the woman "stares" at Theodoric, who has now wrapped his naked body in a rug, her blindness is utterly lost on him. Theodoric's inability to recognize the vacancy behind the woman's eyes is a testament to his limited exposure to other people's challenges. He has been so protected from the trials of the world that he is (ironically) blind to the truth of his situation. More concerned with his own appearances than with the woman's condition, Theodoric immediately begins to invent tales which might explain his situation and thereby preserve his reputation.

The woman, who has endured the challenges of life, is not ruffled by Theodoric's agitated state. Instead, she meets his turmoil with a steady calmness. Theodoric's character weakness can be attributed to a lifetime spent avoiding the true nature of living, which is filled with "coarse" and unflattering circumstances.

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