Posted by: Ticktock | January 12, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Perpetual Consequence

The following is an excerpt from my “concept statement” for my upcoming directing gig of the stage adaptation of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.  Critical thinking has apparently invaded every aspect of my life, including my job directing children’s theatre.  So be it…

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is based on the argument known as “Slippery slope” or “Camel’s Nose”. Briefly, the term “Camel’s Nose” originated from the ancient wisdom that if you allow a camel to poke his nose into your tent, the rest of the animal will follow. Looking at this script from the perspective of a “slippery slope” argument, you can see that the implied message is that a domino effect of tragedy will occur once the mouse gets his foot in the door.

The “Cookie” story patterns itself after “Cat in the Hat”, but it lacks the presence of a personified conscience (the fish from the Dr. Seuss tale). Instead, the moral seems to be that one act of kindness from a person creates a vicious circle of perpetual consequence that will continue ad infinitum unless that person learns to say “no”. Forgive the analogy, but the cookie is a kind of gateway drug that, once taken, escalates into perpetual acts of chaos, and the lesson offered is that children should consider the ultimate consequence of one decision.

The “slippery slope” argument can be true in some situations, but it is considered fallacious if it is used as the primary tool to prove a point.  For instance, it might very well be true to say that letting your child have a sip of wine will make her feel comfortable around wine and thus eventually turn her into an alcoholic, but it could just as easily not be true.  Perhaps that first sip of wine would make a forbidden drink less desirable or, even more likely, the sip of wine would be a neutral non-event.

I suppose it’s important to learn how to say “no”, but I wonder if If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is based on fallacious reasoning.  I mean, sometimes a cookie is enough.  An act of charity doesn’t always create a need for more more more.  For want of a better term, I will invent(?) the phrase “slippery slope of perpetual consequence” to describe the illogical message of my impending play.  I guess Sisyphus would be the earliest example of this idea, a man punished to roll a stone up a hill only to see it roll down again in an endless torturous chore.

Perhaps I think too much, maybe I’m missing the point.  Perhaps the true meaning of the book should be learned from the mouse and not the boy.  Maybe the real message is that we should resist the temptation to ask for more when we have received a gift.  Sometimes I wish my daughter would learn that lesson.

It doesn’t really matter anyway.  The point of the book is a silly tale of a mouse who wants things and a boy who provides those things.  Nevertheless, thanks for letting me think out loud.  I don’t get a chance to do that very often.

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Responses

  1. I like your phrase “slippery slope of perpetual consequence”! If You Give a Mouse a Cookie truly is perpetual, since at the end, it starts once again. I don’t think this is so true in real life. I mean, at some point, the mouse will get full, right? That’s a great discussion topic for the dinner table: “Did you know that the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is based on a logical fallacy?” Wish we lived nearby so we could see the play!!

  2. How about a post-production discussion with the kids in the audience to examine these points?


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