Here is a short overview of our analysis of  the short story “Hall of Small Mammals” by Thomas Pierce.

The short story has a mostly chronological plot structure, with elements of foreshadowing and flashbacks. 

The main characters are the unnamed narrator and Val, the 12-year-old son of the narrator’s girlfriend. The conflict between them is very important. A zoo official and Val's mother are also mentioned.

The physical setting is a hot summer afternoon at the zoo, where Val and the narrator are waiting in line to enter the Hall of Small Mammals. The social setting explores the current issues of zoos as tourist traps and of animals in danger of extinction, as well as family issues in modern society.

The story is told from the point of view of a first-person narrator who does not hesitate to share his often biased judgments about the other characters.

The language is casual and informal. There are many negative words, which add to the atmosphere of the narrative and highlight the conflict between the characters. The story also relies on symbolism, which points to the differences between the two characters.

Further help

For more advice about analyzing short stories, you can read our general guide to short story analysis.