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Themes

This theme might seem out of place in "To a Mouse"—after all, there's only one human character, and he's talking to a mouse. Where's the society? Why are we talking about class? Wasn't this just about a rodent? What gives already? Well, cool your jets, Shmoopers. You see, the speaker sees the plight of the mouse and uses it to make general statements about all of nature and all of humankind—especially the plight of the poor.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Where in the poem does the speaker start to make a connection between himself and the mouse? How does that connection between the speaker (or all of mankind) and the mouse change or develop over the course of the poem?
  2. What words, phrases, images, or metaphors suggest that the mouse's situation might represent the plight of the poor?
  3. Do you think the intended audience for this poem is upper or lower class, or somewhere in the middle? Or do you think that readers might have a different reaction depending on their social class? Why do you think so? 
  4. Does Burns mock the plight of the poor by comparing them to a mouse turned out of its nest? Could he have come up with a more dignified comparison? Or is the plight of the mouse elevated and dignified by being compared to the human condition?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In "To a Mouse," the speaker moves from casual empathy for the mouse's plight to a more imaginative sympathy for the mouse that encompasses all of nature and all of mankind. Much love for the mouse, the universe, and everything.

We have a mouse connection. The speaker's ability to connect with the mouse sympathetically enables him to connect his situation—and the mouse's—with all of humankind and all "fellow-mortals."

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