How Does the Poet's Comparison of Mice and Humans Work?

In many poems, writers use extended metaphors comparing two unlikely subjects. Often the non-human subject takes on human qualities, revealing something about humanity. In this article, we’ll look at how poets have compared mice and humans and what these comparisons suggest.

Examples of Mouse and Human Comparisons

Poets have long used mouse imagery when exploring human traits. Here are some examples:

Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse”

The speaker sympathizes with a mouse whose home he disturbs with a plow. He realizes the shared transient nature of mouse and man.

A.E. Housman’s “The Mouse’s Nest”

This poem uses a mouse’s nest as a metaphor for the fleetingness of life and accomplishments.

Emily Dickinson’s “Apt to Forget”

Dickinson points out how humans and mice both go about their lives, forgetting their impermanence.

What the Comparisons Reveal About Mankind

We Have Daily Struggles Like Animals

The poems connect the mouse’s struggles to man’s—finding food, building homes. Humans have baser animal needs despite higher intellect.

Humans and Mice Share Fragile Existence

Comparing mouse and human vulnerability shows we are similarly delicate, transient creatures. No accomplishments make us impervious.

Mice Remind Us Not to Take Things for Granted

Mice live in the moment, unaware of life’s impermanence. Humans struggle to remember time passes quickly.

Significance of Comparing Such Different Creatures

The contrast makes humans reconsider assumptions of superiority over other living things. Connecting mice and men highlights that compared to nature, human achievements are less monumental. These comparisons reframe the way we view mankind’s place in the world.


The extended metaphor connecting mice and humans spans many poems. Despite surface differences, look deeper and you find many shared truths. Comparing man to mice makes us re-examine human nature with humility and new perspective.

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