What Did Dr. Seuss Want Us to Get Out of His Books?

by Kay Ireland
Dr, Seuss books promote themes and sometimes political ideals.

Dr, Seuss books promote themes and sometimes political ideals.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Dr. Seuss, the creative mind behind "The Cat in the Hat," "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Horton Hears a Who," is a staple in modern American libraries across the country. Nearly any child could tell you about the brightly colored, rhyming tomes with animal characters and silly names. While paging through a Dr. Seuss classic, you may notice that the books are more than funny poems and pictures; most are meant to tell a story, and they often paint a vivid picture of the social environment when they were published.

Respect Others

In several of his books, Dr. Seuss (born Theodor Seuss Geisel) points out the importance of respecting others. Consider "Horton Hears a Who," penned in response to the American bombing of Hiroshima. Or, "The Sneetches," a clear relation to Nazi Germany with the constant references to stars being a sign of ostracization. In each of these books, the characters learn that everyone is valuable and should be respected, "no matter how small."

Be Optimistic

Some of Dr. Seuss' books point toward being positive and optimistic in the face of challenges. "I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew" follows a fellow who overcomes trials on his way to a beautiful city. When he arrives and the city is locked, he goes back to his problems, brandishing a large bat in retaliation. In the classic "The Cat in the Hat," a cat teaches children how to have fun and be silly while keeping a good attitude about the outcome.

Protect the Environment

The logging industry banned "The Lorax" among employees because it viewed the book as anti-logging. The story is one of respect for the environment, which centers around a group of loggers who are responsible for the industrialization of the forest and subsequent greed and destruction that follows. The purpose of the book was to prove how one seemingly small act of pollution or destruction could compound to cause the downfall of an ecosystem, but the theme angered the logging industry, who later released their own propagandist books in retaliation.

Pride Comes Before the Fall

In "Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories," we meet Gertrude, a bird who is so obsessed with her appearance that she keeps growing long tail feathers. The feathers become so heavy that she can't even fly. Eventually, her tail feathers must be plucked out for her to fly, leaving her with just one feather that she learns to adore. In "The Big Brag," a bear and a bull argue over who has the strongest senses, when an earthworm tricks them into thinking he can see the farthest, noting that they are the biggest fools he can see. Seuss was fond of pride as a theme, always ending the story with proper comeuppance.

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