Setting

Physical setting

The short story “Hall of Small Mammals” by Thomas Pierce takes place in a zoo on a summer afternoon. There are several references to the “cloudless afternoon heat” (l. 7), perceived by the narrator as oppressive and exhausting, adding to his discomfort: “I tugged my shirt off my sticky back to let in some air.” (ll. 31-32)

The Hall of Small Mammals is described as an ideal destination, accessible only to a chosen few. In contrast with the oppressive heat outside, inside the Hall, it is pleasantly cool: “Cool air gushed out of the dark hall in powerful and pleasant waves. It felt wonderful and inviting.” (ll. 316-317). The Hall of Small Mammals is presented in contrast with the Hall of Great Apes, which is empty, and no one seems interested to visit it, except the narrator, who seems to feel drawn to it. At the same time, the Hall of Small Mammals is symbolic of childhood, while the Hall of Great Apes is symbolic of adulthood. The narrator regrets not being able to enter the Hall of Small Mammals, once he is not allowed there, although it is also interested to point out that he is equally drawn to the Hall of Great Apes, where he acknowledges his isolation. In this way, the two places point to how the...

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