Dr. Seuss Dr. Seuss I took an unconventional approach in the topic I chose for my reading assignment – whereas most groups selected single novels, my partner and I opted to read a collection of short stories by none other than the notorious Dr. Seuss. Were I writing this essay on a “normal” book, I would be able to pose a question about the book itself and answer it in an ordinary sort of way.
However, given the subject matter I have chosen, an essay on an individual book, though possible, would be a very tricky thing to do. It would be wiser, and probably easier, to respond to the man himself. My decision to respond to the man himself makes many more choices – what facet of Dr. Seuss shall I ask myself questions about? I think perhaps I first need to give some brief biographical information on the man to understand the background he’s coming from. In 1904, Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Massachusetts, USA.
I have not been able to find too much documentation about his childhood, but he certainly did not come from a terribly poor or terribly unsuccessful family .. in fact, his family had owned a local brewery in their home town of Springfield for several years. Ever since his childhood, Geisel had dabbled in the fields we all know and love him for today .. for instance, during bible recitals, he read the verses to a rhythm and often in rhyme. In High School he wrote many short essays and drew cartoons for the school paper, and even then he had adopted a pseudonym for himself – “Pete the Pessimist”. Upon graduation, Geisel began studying literature at Oxford university, as his original intent was to become an educator .. even then, he punctuated his time at Oxford with his job editing and contributing to the “Jack-O-Lantern”, their humour magazine .. his work there was published under the name “Dr.
Theophrastus Seuss”. Upon Geisel’s graduation, he found that work for educators was slimmer than that he had first expected, and performed various odd jobs .. his big break into the writing business came in 1937: Theodore had just gotten off a boat, and was sitting in a tavern. Due to a storm, the boat had been rocked back and forth, and the rhythm of this rocking was still very prevalent in his mind. Overcome by the rhythm, he got out some paper and penned “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street”, under the name “Dr. Seuss”.
Seuss, obviously proud of what he had done, attempted to get his book published – 27 letters of rejection came in from 27 companies telling him that his work was much too unconventional for children to understand and relate to and all that mish-mash, and it was the 28th company that dared to publish his work. That risk certainly paid off for them .. and the rest, as they say, is history. Writing all of this, I have just thought of a question to explore: Many authors publish many books for many different reasons .. to put them all into a very big nutshell, however, you can see them all in two different groups: Firstly, there are those who publish for money and fame, churning out one book after another in an attempt to capitalize/attract audience – although some people might argue this, current “big-name” authors like Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton fit into this category.
Secondly, there are authors who publish for the thrill of creativity and writing, for the art rather than the money .. they would rather contribute to the artistic world than their financial world (although most authors would agree that a bit of both would be nice). Dr. Seuss, in the selections he publishes, talks about subjects that obviously most people in today’s society would agree with. For Example: “The Lorax” deals with environmental issues which most people nowadays can attest to caring about, and “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” deals with the importance of the imagination, something that few people would dispute. Since Dr.
Seuss’ target audience is children (although his last two books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” and “You’re Only Old Once” were geared toward an older audience .. it would be interesting to see if he would have continued in that vein supposing he did not die), parents are the ones in charge of the buying .. and most ‘responsible’ parents would like their children to learn the morals and ethics Seuss preaches in his stories. Was Dr. Seuss simply writing stories targeted to moral-hungry parents to rack in the dollars, or did he seriously have something creative to say or do? That shall be the subject of this essay.
Since I do not have any serious autobiographical information on the man, and since I’m not Dr. Seuss himself I obviously cannot get inside his head and decipher what exactly his intentions were. I shall attempt to answer that question using selections from his writing and artistry, for those are the closest we can get to the mind of this genius (and he is a genius whether he is a member of group 1 or 2 .. marketing geniuses and creative geniuses both fit in the “genius” category). I shall go about this task in a typical report sort of way, by showing the case for Group 1, showing the case for Group 2, and finally writing my personal opinion. Part 1 – Seuss as a money-hungry product of the system: I said it before, but I’ll say it again: If you look at the works of Dr.
Seuss, extreme moral undertones abound. Books such as the so previously mentioned “The Lorax” and “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” teach children to respect the environment, a message further improved upon by books like “McElligott’s Pool” and “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” which show the diversity of living things. Books such as “The Foot Book” teach children tolerance for all different type of people and things, denouncing racism and sexism and any other – ism you can think of. That message certainly should be heeded, but can it be proven that Seuss was an adamant supporter of those morals? Being born in 1904, when the status of civil rights was very different, he was almost definitely raised with a less egalitarian viewpoint than children born in the past 20-30 years – he could have either been truly in opposition to what was going on in the 50’s when “The Foot Book” was written, or he could have been latching onto the civil rights trends that were prevalent and, after a period of time, accepted. More evidence about this later. In 1950, Seuss read an article saying that educators and teachers thought children did not have good reading skills. Seuss decided to fulfill that need and wrote “The Cat In The Hat”, the first-ever beginner reader book that was fun to read (he would later publish many more books fulfilling the same function) – up ’til that point, the ultra-bland Dick and Jane literature was the only thing struggling young readers had any access to.
Here’s another little dilemma: Was the “Cat in the Hat” an exercise of creative power, an attempt to seriously improve upon the youth of that time, or an attempt to make money by monopolizing on fun children’s reading education (the Cat in the Hat, after all, sold 50 million copies). Seuss did originally want to become a teacher (come to think of it, he did teach millions of children .. but that’s another topic), so perhaps this educational altruism was what he really desired .. then again, how many teachers are in schools because they want to improve the minds of children and how many are in schools because they want to put food on their tables – I am fairly certain that there are more of the latter group than the former. As you can recall, S …