“To a Mouse” by Robert Burns – Analysis

The poem, “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns depicts the writer’s remorse on destroying the nest of a tiny field mouse with his plough. It began when the speaker was working in his field when an unfortunate incident occurred. He accidentally destroyed the nest of the mouse. In the first stanza, the writer addresses the mouse directly using multilayered adjectives to show the mouse’s emotional and physical state. He tries to assure him that he has not harmed him intentionally. Therefore, the mouse should not feel afraid of the speaker.

The second stanza talks about the selfish nature of humankind. The writer says that humans have dominated the world, and this domination creates troubles for other creatures. He tries to feel the tiny creature’s emotions to hate humans as they continue to add misery to his life. Also, he mourns the lack of communication between humans and non-humans. The writer calls the mouse his fellow companion, implying the theme of mortality.

To make his readers understand the pain of this little creature, the writer further explains how the mouse tries to make ends meet. He steals food from humans and lives in a fragile house made of grass and hay. Now, the walls of his house are broken, and he can’t fix them. The biting cold of December would not allow him to rebuilt his house. Thus, the mouse is doomed and writer’s keen concern would not bring ease to him.

Major Themes in the Poem

“To a Mouse” by Robert Burns displays various themes such as man versus nature, destruction and its impacts, seasonal shift, and harmful impacts. The poem seems a simple composition expressing the writer’s remorse, who unknowingly harmed a tiny creature. However, deep inside, the poem simultaneously explores phenomena like evilness in man’s nature and the destructive power of the natural world. Destroying of tiny house shed light on the dark aspects of human nature. The writer states in the poem that humankind’s dominance never allows him to accept the presence of any other creature on this planet.

Despite knowing that earth does not belong to humans only, many other creatures live on this planet. We show no mercy and bring ruination to the other animals both intentionally and unintentionally. This is what the speaker of the poem does and repents afterward. Although his sorry does not fix that mouse’s destroyed house, it highlights that all humans are not alike. Some people do think about the other creatures that populate the earth.

Through this poetic piece, the writer tries to show how the poor and weak suffer in the world. Keeping the mouse in the center, the writer attempts to highlight those who lack even the basic facilities of life. No matter how hard they try to manage a sufficient living, they fail to do so. Sometimes they are hit by natural calamities, while sometimes they suffer at the hands of evil people.

Poetic and Literary Elements in “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns

Literary and poetic elements are used to support, highlight and emphasize the writer’s ideas and emotions. Robert Burns has also added a layer of meanings in this poem using literary elements like personification, symbolism, imagery, irony, and metaphor. All these elements have helped him convey his ideas to the readers.

Personification is when you treat other creatures and things as if they are humans. The writer uses this device throughout the poem as he addresses mouse his fellow in the poem. Imagery is used to make the readers perceive, visualize and feel what the writer wants to convey using his poetic intelligence. Robert Burns has used vivid imagery in the poem to connect his audience with his ideas such as; “Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!” Similarly, the writer has used dramatic irony in the poem to highlight the catastrophic loss of the mouse in the second last stanza of the poem. He states that the best-laid scheme of mice and men often suffers a decline.

Moreover, the writer has used destruction as an extended metaphor to show how man and animals are destined to bear losses in life. Throughout the poem, he continues to feel bad for the mouse. House metaphorically represents comfort, peace, and happiness but the speaker wrecks the mouse’s life. Besides these literary elements, the writer has cleverly used some poetic elements in the poem such as; stanza type, rhyme scheme, diction, and tone.

See Also:

“We Wear the Mask” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar – Analysis

I Carry Your Heart with Me” by E. E Cummings