Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Hanging of the Mouse”, places animals in the roles of humans in reference to an execution. The writer uses animals to replace humans to possibly convey a message or point of view towards the death penalty. In the story, the mouse is being executed for what we believe is some sort of crime. It isn’t clear whether or not the mouse actually committed a crime, but we are led to believe that an act occurred in which caused the mouse to be executed on this particular day. The writer doesn’t convey their opinion on capital punishment or the death penalty.
As the story plays out, all the writer is doing is telling a story of a mouse and incorporating all these different animals. Every animal has a different role. And each role is specific to want happens in a hanging. “A raccoon, wearing the traditional black mask, was the executioner…. A large praying mantis was in charge of the religious end of the ceremonies. ” (Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2010, p. 1309) Is the writer trying to tell the reader something? It isn’t clear, but the writer does convey the hardship of watching such a thing occur.
Most of the animals have a difficult time watching the hanging. “It was all so touching that a cat, who had brought her child in her mouth, shed several large tears. They rolled down on to the child’s back and he began to squirm and shriek, so that the mother thought that the sight of the hanging had perhaps been too much for him,” (Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2010, p. 1310). Stereotypically mice fall prey to cats, and in this case, the cat feels remorse, sadness for what happens to the mouse.
This theory can lead to a thought that not everyone who believes in capital punishment can withstand to watch the punishment be carried out. Reading through the story, the writer doesn’t have a specific reader in mind. This story can easily be read by a vast majority of different people and each one may have a different take on its meaning. Small children wouldn’t benefit from a story like this, because questions would arise as to why the mouse is being punished? Young adults and adults would find the story an interesting read.
Each, again, may grasp a different meaning or have a different feeling towards the story, only because of the different backgrounds may be involved. “The Hanging of the Mouse” brought to light a few questions on my feelings on capital punishment and the death penalty. Questions like “Do I believe in capital punishment? ”, “Do I believe in the death penalty? ” and “Can I withstand to watch someone die in front of my eyes? ” crossed my mind as a read through the story. The death penalty should be carried out depending on the crime committed, and I don’t believe that I am one to watch the punishment to be carried out.
I would be that cat feeling remorse and sadness for what was happening in front of me. The last line in the story, “but an excellent moral lesson, nevertheless. ” (Barnet, Cain, & Burto, 2010, p. 1310) sticks out the most from the entire story. Having the belief that the death penalty should be carried out, but not being able to watch such an event…should children and teens be subject to such things? For sure this would teach them a lesson on what happens when extremely bad crimes are committed, but is that a lesson that should be taught in that way?
Elizabeth Bishop’s very short story brought up more questions than answers. It’s refreshing to read something that may have a clear message, e. g. the agreement of having the death penalty, but it could mean so much more. Questions arose to the feelings of victims watching the execution and children being taught a “valuable” lesson. There isn’t a clear answer and I don’t believe that was the intention of the writer. Overall the intention was to have thoughts, to have conversations about the underlying topic.
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