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The short story "Mouse", collected among other places in Smoke and Mirrors, is about a man who is buying a trap to get rid of the mouse in his house. He doesn't want to kill the mouse, so he buys a safe trap.

Meanwhile, at home, his wife seems pregnant. She goes away for what seems to be an abortion, and when she comes back, she complains about the pain. As she does so, her husband can't tolerate it and goes away.

In the kitchen, the trap has a mouse in it. The man can't kill it, so he takes it gently to his yard and sets the mouse free.


I don't remember if his wife actually being mentioned as pregnant, but it was my impression that she was getting an abortion. From the contrast in the treatment the protagonist shows to his wife (actually their unborn child) and to the mouse, it seemed to me that the story might be criticising abortion. This was most baffling, because I clearly remember Neil Gaiman mentioning1 a non-existing Sandman story, where we would see the dreams of an unborn baby about to be killed by an abortion, and he said that he didn't write the story because he didn't want it to be used as leverage to persuade young girls into keeping children they didn't want.

So right now Neil Gaiman seems to be pro-choice. Is this short story really anti-abortion?

1 I don't remember which interview it was - this, this, or some else.

  • By some bizarre coincidence, Black Uhuru's "Abortion" started playing when I was writing this. Neil Gaiman annotated the short stories in this collection with the stories of their writing - this one's background doesn't mention abortion, but rather superstitions. – Gallifreyan Sep 10 '17 at 22:36
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    I guess it’s probably worth mentioning that the views of an author and the views of a character in a work can be two very different things. A lot of authors write stories from the viewpoint of characters with whom they disagree. But in any case, it could be that Neil Gaiman’s views on abortion are more complicated than “for” or “against.” For example, maybe he dislikes abortion (and thus wouldn’t mind writing a story critical of it), but feels that it should be an option that people have (and doesn’t want to be used as justification to take away abortion rights). – Obie 2.0 Sep 11 '17 at 3:11
  • @Obie2.0 Of course. I was more interested in the story itself than in the author's opinion. Still looking for that interview where he talked about it. – Gallifreyan Sep 11 '17 at 3:28
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The story is critical of the 'pro-life' belief in general.

The main character is an uncaring a-hole who doesn't like his sex partners using contraception, we see this in his past relationship with 'Gwen.' He admits he finds contraception takes away the magic of sex. This is presumably why his wife has an unwanted pregnancy.

The story revolves around the narrator's obsession with not killing the mouse who has infested his house. When he finally catches the mouse non-lethally and sets it free, it is instantly eaten by a cat, and he does nothing to stop it. When his wife wants to tell him about her abortion, he ignores her too, much like he does the mouse.

the pro-life movement is shown as being obsessed with the 'magic' of life and sex, and prone to fantasy, as evidenced by the unhinged, conspiracy-theory rantings of the pro-life loonies in news that serves as the the backdrop of the story. Also, the narrator admits that to him, sex takes place 'half in his dreams, half in reality' whereas for Gwen and his wife, sex takes place 100% in the real world.

The cat eating the mouse at the end, and the protagonists' blasé attitude towards his wife's suffering and women's suffering in general, shows that the pro-life movement is unable to see the harsh realities of life, and would prefer to keep their hands clean, regardless of the consequences. Life, death, sex and suffering are real things, things the narrator, and the pro-life movement, would prefer not to think about and ignore.

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