Untitled Essay, Research Paper
By: Justin Alan Proffitt
The problems that society presents to us as adults is often portrayed
through writing. These writings tend to be more factual when educational
writings on the prevention of problems are what is needed. Theodor Geisel,
better known as Dr. Seuss, often used children’s stories such as The
Lorax, The Sneetches, and Yertle the Turtle to symbolize the problems and
prejudices in society. At the same time he enlightened us to the problems,
he also provided ways for us to overcome them.
Theodor Geisel was born March 2, 1904, to Theodor Robert and Henrietta Seuss
Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts (Moritz 139). At a very early age, Theodor
Geisel developed a talent that would make him very famous later in his life.
He developed a strange and unrealistic style of drawing which came about
by doodling on his school books.
After attending high school at Central High School in Springfield, he decided
to further his education at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire (139).
While attending Dartmouth, he edited and contributed to cartoons to the campus
humor magazine. After graduating from Dartmouth College with a Bachelor of
Arts Degree in English, he went on to write columns for the Springfield Union
for a few months. Soon after,
he started graduate work in English literature at Lincoln College, Oxford
University in England at which he stayed for one year (139).
After returning from Oxford University, he began his career. In 1927, he
sold cartoons to magazines such as Judge, Liberty, and Vanity Fair. While
working for different magazines, McCann-Erickson, an advertising agency,
saw his work and assigned him to an account. He worked for McCann-Erickson
for more than a decade, during which he created humorous campaigns featuring
bizarre animals. In 1931, he illustrated for Viking Press. In 1932, he wrote
and illustrated his own book, but he could not find a publisher ( 139).
For almost four years, Geisel did nothing–that is until 1937. In 1937, Geisel
wrote And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. After the success of that
book, he wrote The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins in 1938. In 1939, he began
a relationship with Random House Publishing and wrote The Seven Lady Godivas
As successful as these stories were, he went on to write the line of books
known as Dr. Seuss which sky-rocketed his fame. The Dr. Seuss books contained
small, short choppy sentences with easy words so
that children could understand them. He often used these books to present
worldly problems, but on a level to which children could relate.
The Lorax is a story inside a story. The old Once-ler is telling a young
boy his account of where the Lorax had gone. At the Street of the Lifted
Lorax, the Once-ler found some Truffula trees. The Once-ler had been searching
for these trees because of their bright colors and the silky feel they had
to them. He chopped one down and made a thneed from it which can be
used to make a sock, pillowcase, or anything that was needed. All of a sudden,
the Lorax appeared. He was very upset because the Once-ler was chopping down
the Truffula trees to make a useless thneed. The Lorax was very angry when
a man bought a thneed, so he left. The Once-ler then called his family, and
they moved to the Street of the Lifted Lorax to help bigger his business.
The Once-ler family chopped tree after tree, and once again the Lorax showed
up. He spoke for the trees and brown Bar-ba-loots who lived off the trees.
They now had to move away or else they would die. The Once-ler didn’t
care though, he just kept making his business bigger and bigger. A few days
passed, and the Lorax showed up again. This time he was speaking for the
Swamee-Swans. They had to leave, too, because the smoke from the thread factory
was making them sick. Even this did not stop the Once-ler. He kept his business
growing. Later on, the Lorax showed up once again speaking for !
the Humming-fish. They had to relocate also because of the glop from the
thneed machine was being put into the pond.
While the Once-ler and Lorax were talking, the very last Truffula tree was
chopped down. The Lorax said nothing. He just left the Once-ler and never
looked back. All that the Lorax left was a small pile of rocks with the word
“UNLESS” on them. For many years the Once-ler worried about the message the
Lorax had left on the rocks. After many years, he finally figured out what
it meant. It meant that “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not” (59). The Once-ler then gives
the last Truffula seed so that the boy could plant it. Then the Lorax and
all his friends could return.
Geisel’s The Lorax symbolizes the problem with the environment. “His
words are a plea to future generations, challenging the youth to revive the
wilderness ravaged by their predecessors” (Udvari). This particular book
was written for the sole purpose of educating children on how to protect
the environment so that future generations will have a good place to live.
Geisel not only wrote about the environmental problems facing us, he also
wrote of the prejudices in society. The Sneetches is a story about two different
groups of Sneetches–the Star-Belly Sneetches and the Plain-Belly Sneetches.
The Star-Belly Sneetches are very snooty, and they exclude the Plain-Belly
Sneetches from everything. In their eyes, the Plain-Belly Sneetches are not
good enough to participate in anything that the Star-Bellys do. One day a
man named Sylvester McMonkey McBean shows up. He has a machine to give the
Plain-Bellys a star on their belly. McBean charges three dollars for each
star. Now, because of McBean, the Plain-Belly Sneetches have stars; but instead
of including them into their group, the Star-Belly Sneetches have their stars
removed for ten dollars each. The Sneetches are running in and out of
McBean’s machines until they run out of money. They no longer know who
is who so McBean leaves and the Sneetches decide that “Sneetches are Sneet!
ches and no kind of Sneetch is the Best on the beaches” (24).
Geisel’s The Sneetches symbolizes the problem of prejudice in the world.
The Sneetches are of two kinds–this can be compared to the human race being
different colors. Often today one race thinks it is superior to the others
just as the Star-Belly Sneetches thought of themselves as being superior
to the Plain-Belly Sneetches. The story of The Sneetches teaches
children that all are equal, and that no one race or person is better than
Theodor Geisel also wrote of historical events which led to the injustice
of mankind and misuse of power. Geisel’s best known book symbolizing
this is Yertle the Turtle. Yertle is the king of the Island of Sala-ma-sond.
He is a very arrogant and conceited turtle. Yertle is so obsessed with being
ruler and king that he wants to rule over more than just the island. Yertle
then orders nine turtles to stack one on another, and Yertle climbs to the
top. Once on top, Yertle decides he is ruler over everything he sees. Not
satisfied, Yertle orders for two hundred more turtles to pile on the stack.
Right after the order is given, Yertle hears the voice of Mack, the turtle
on the bottom. Mack asks Yertle to please not stack any more because his
back is hurting, and he is hungry. Yertle tells him to hush, and the turtles
continue to pile on. Once again, after Yertle reaches the top, he is not
satisfied. Yertle orders for 5,607 turtles to pile on top of Mack. Right
the order for more turtles, Mack burps. His burp shakes the tower of turtles
, and Yertle falls off into the mud. From that day on, he is known as King
of the Mud. Geisel goes on to say “And the turtles; of course…all the turtles
are free as turtles and , maybe, all creatures should be” (Seuss, Yertle
the Turtle 28).
“The story of Yertle, a deceitful turtle, is a parable on the life of Hitler”
(Moritz 140). Yertle portrays Hitler and his obsession for power. The lesson
Geisel uses in this story is that pride can be a person’s greatest downfall,
just as it was for Yertle.
The line of Dr. Seuss books are all very important lessons. The reactions
to the books that Geisel wrote, under the name of Dr. Seuss’s are still
evident today considering that “Even after his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss
continues to be the best-selling author of children’s books in the world”
(Moritz 140). Geisel’s books were an influencing factor upon many readers.
“Dr. Suess was a unique talent, and I am never surprised by the number and
diversity of people who cite his books as an influence” (DaRosa).
Theodor Geisel simply conveyed messages through his children’s books.
Each book symbolically represented a problem in society but gave its readers
a way to solve it. In Geisel’s own way, he influenced the minds of many
children who are now the leaders and influencing the factors of our future.