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The death of the mouse is desirable in every way, but will life without him really be pleasurable? Will the mouse’s absence satisfy him entirely? Is it conceivable that he may miss the mouse, from time to time? Is it possible that he needs the mouse, is some disturbing way? (18)

544dcaf446fbc273a3ed9a2ffbc0a001--classic-cartoons-vintage-cartoonsThe cat’s reluctance to eat the mouse, despite it being his one goal in life, suggests a codependence between the two. This codependence is enforced by the mouse’s action of wiping himself out of existence in the next paragraph after he erases the cat. A world in which the other did not exist would be, on the surface, incredibly easier for both: the cat would not be injured attempting to catch the mouse, while the mouse’s quest for food would be unhindered. However, while it would be easier they would remain unfulfilled. This looming emptiness forces the cat and the mouse to face the reality that they cannot live without the other. By erasing the cat and them himself from existence in the next paragraph, the mouse allows them both to escape from a world in which their one goal, unhindered access to cheese for the mouse and killing the mouse for the cat, would forever be out of reach due to their reliance on each other. As the cat and mouse are cartoon characters, the viewer need not worry about what happens after the curtains close, assured in the knowledge that the characters will be back and healthy in the next episode. However, the final words of the the story “THE END” (18) contain a far less comforting message for this cat and mouse; this incarnation of cat and mouse became too aware of their relationship and thus they had to be removed forever allowing new incarnations to replace them for the next episode. The fateful term “THE END” not only closes the story but also closes the curtains on the existence of this cat and mouse. By placing this story at the beginning of the collections prepares the reader for Millhauser’s penchant for the fantastic element of exaggeration that is seen throughout the entire collection through a medium that, to the modern viewer is easily digestible.

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