Summary and Analysis: Medicine for Melancholy The Little Mice


This story centers around a Mexican couple whose behavior is considered odd by their landlord. The Mexicans stay very much to themselves and never make conversation with other people. Even when they are alone, they seem never to make a sound. Equally as strange, their landlord has never smelled food cooking, never heard a meal being prepared, and never heard even a light switch being turned on. On several occasions he has spied on them, yet he has never seen them doing anything but sitting quietly beneath a dim, blue bulb which provides their only source of light. Even when a fire threatens their home, the Mexican couple refuses to leave. Only when the landlord enters their home to force them to flee for their lives does he learn their secret: Hundreds of wine bottles line their shelves and fill their closets and bureaus.

First published in Escapade Magazine as "The Mice," this story is another example of Bradbury's desire to write a narrative that uses a subtle twist on reality. Here the thrust of his efforts lies in the element of suspense as the reader is encouraged to use his imagination. Mice imagery is used to describe the Mexican couple, and these are consistent throughout the story. When the Mexicans meet people in alley ways, they run; when the Mexican man raps on his backdoor screen, the sound is like a "fat mouse scrambling." Other times the Mexican "nibbles" at his door, and the couple is described as being as "quiet as a mouse." The blue light which illuminates their home further intensifies the mood of unreality, for the light is not a typical light, nor are the Mexicans who spend much of their lives beneath it. The wine that they spend so much time drinking further distorts reality for them. Yet the landlord reaffirms the norm and acknowledges Bradbury's philosophy that fantasy or unreality is beneficial only when it has a positive reinforcement on people. The landlord finds the realities of life, such as a well-lighted home and home cooking, much more satisfying.