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The Story Within The Story: Who Moved My Cheese

1146 words - 5 pages

Spencer Johnson uses a story within a story to attempt to catch the reader off-guard and ready for a teachable moment. In the context of a class reunion discussion, the friends begin to catch up and share what has happened in their lives over the years. Some have had success and others have had frustration in their lives. One Character had found the story of Who Moved My Cheese and credited that story as a rich source of help and guidance in navigating the changes of life.
From the setting of revealed information, the author shares with the reader the story of Who Moved My Cheese. The story is written in a sort of Aesop’s fable context with two small people (Hem and Haw) and two mice (Sniff and Scurry). The obvious intent is for these four to represent the different ways that people deal (or do not deal) with change. In the context of a maze, the four would each leave in search of the cheese. The two mice sniff and scurry through the maze until they find the prize; they personify their names in their behavior. The two little people use their human traits to remember the maze and make their way to where they knew the cheese was waiting. The Crisis of the story happens when the previously believed unlimited supply of cheese was depleted. Now the two humans were at the disadvantage because they operated from the presumption that what was true yesterday would be true today unlike the mice who operated by instinct. The title of the book comes from the frustration of Hem who hollers this phrase. For some time he and Hem had avoided the “rat race” by walking directly to station C and having their fill of cheese rather than searching out a new way every day. With the cheese gone, Hem could not deal with the fact that he would have to look elsewhere for the cheese and hence the name Hem, because he was hemmed in by his unchangeable paradigm. Haw is victim to the same problems as Hem but is able to laugh (Haw!) at the situation and begin searching for more cheese.
The two mice characters are two only for balance but essentially the same quality of using instinct and a blank slate every day to find that for which they are looking. Operating by the instinct is less productive at first because they are not using their memories to avoid the wrong turns and dead-ends. Sniff and Scurry are victims of their natures and re-invent the path to the cheese every day. The human characters are more successful at first because they find a path that works and keep using it until the cheese runs out. In that predicament, the mice simply continued with their previous natures and searched out another source of cheese. Hem and Haw remained convinced that they simply needed to return to where the cheese was and it would reappear. The two human characters are more distinct than the mice and they begin to diverge in the way they deal with their problem. Eventually the mice find another source of cheese and Haw joins them. The story leaves the reader unaware of the final status...

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