Theodore "Seuss" Geisel

Andrew Roberts


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"I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells"
-Dr. Seuss




"Yertle the Turtle"


YouTube - "Yertle the Turtle"

YouTube - RCHP "Yertle the Turtle"

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Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
(5) I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Yertle.
(10) “You’ve no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle.
I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea!
There’s nothing, no, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!”

But, while he was shouting, he saw with surprise
That the moon of the evening was starting to rise
(15) Up over his head in the darkening skies.
“What’s THAT?” snorted Yertle. “Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it! I’ll go higher still!
I’ll build my throne higher! I can and I will!
(20) I’ll call some more turtles. I’ll stack ‘em to heaven!
I need ’bout five thousand, six hundred and seven!”

But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And started to order and give the command,
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
(25) That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!
(30) And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
The king of a house and a cow and a mule…
Well, that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!
(35) For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
(40) As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.



"Yertle the Turtle," by Dr. Seuss, is the story of Mack, the "plain" turtle who initially protests and eventually overthrows the authoritarian regime of Yertle the Turtle. Because Seuss was politically active during the time of World War II, drawing political cartoons in support of the war efforts, many believe that Yertle represents the power held by Hitler and Mussolini. The point of view in this story is 3rd person as the narration shows both Yertle's and Mack's perspective on the power struggle. Seuss' use of anapestic tetrameter is also apparent in this poem which could resemble the constant struggle that is occuring between the two turtles.

There are several images that are apparent and repeated in this poem. The first is the use of the word "King." Although Yertle starts out with little power, he is able to work his way up in the story where he is referred to as "Yertle the King," "Turtle King," and later ironically "King of the Mud" (22, 34, 38). He starts out as King of the Pond but as more Turtle's fall to his power and join his tower of turtles, he becomes King of the trees and King of a house (31, 33). Then, when Mack finally does his "plain little thing," Yertle falls and becomes "King of the Mud" (28, 38). Another image that is presented (and which is a good example of effective word choice) is when Mack is referred to as "plain" (25). In contrast with Yertle, who has power over everything, Mack seems almost useless and powerless. Yet despite what the reader thinks, Seuss surprises him or her as Mack's "plain little thing," a burp, causes the downfall of Yertle (28). The message that Seuss is most likely trying to present here is the idea that something or someone, no matter how simple, plain, or powerless, can make a difference, especially against authority where it is unjustly given (or in this case taken).

Another important part of this poem is the rhyming scheme in which connected words are rhymed together. The first is when "Mack" is rhymed with "stack" (1-2). Here Seuss is almost foreshadowing, because although Mack is only a small part of the "great heavy stack," eventually he is able to take the entire thing down (1). This also occurs in lines 24-25. Two other important words are rhymed with "King." The first is what Yertle challenges: the moon, referred to as the "thing" (16). Yertle makes his tower even taller (which frustrates Mack even further) just so he can try to be King of the moon and heavens too. Another use of "thing" rhymes with King: "plain little thing" (25). While the first "thing" is what Yertle challenges, the second is what Mack uses to challenge Yertle: a simple little burp. And as previously mentioned, with this simple action, Mack is able to take down Yertle.




"The Sneetches"


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When the Star Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts
Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches
They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches.
(5) They kept them away. Never let them come near.
And that’s how they treated them year after year.

Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars,
(10) A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends”, he announced in a voice clear and clean,
“My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I’ve heard of Your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.

(15) I’ve come here to help you.
I have what you need.
And my prices are low. And I work with great speed.
And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
(20) Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch?
My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!”
So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared.
(25) And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked.
And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked!
When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars!
They actually did. They had stars upon thars!


"The Sneetches," by Dr. Seuss, tells the story of two different types of Sneetches, those who have a star on their belly and those who don't have a star on their belly. This story is often referenced as Dr. Seuss' criticism of prejudice; that two groups could act so horribly to one another because of a slight difference of how they look. Similarly to "Yertle the Turtle," the story is told in 3rd person, most likely to show the attitudes of the both the discriminators and discriminated. Also similar to "Yertle the Turtle," the use of anapestic tetrameter is consistently present, probably to show the consistency of prejudice.

The imagery in this story is very powerful. The first, and the most important, is the star. For most readers, this piece of imagery is meaningless. It's a simple star and yet the entire "race" of Plain-Belly Sneetches is discriminated against because they don't have one on their belly. It makes the reader think about how we judge people on very small, individual things and we often do not treat people with the respect they deserve. For Seuss on the other hand, this piece of imagery is not meaningless. Seuss was a practicing Christian but on many occasions was mistaken as and discriminated as a Jew. Furthermore, because he seriously supported the World War II effort against the Axis, the star most likely reflects the stars Jews were made to wear during that time period. What's ironic here, however, is that the one's without the stars are discriminated against. The second piece of imagery is the Star-Belly Sneetch Machine. By paying a small fee, Sylvester McMonky McBean gives the Plain-Belly Sneetches stars "upon thars" (28). This idea is so strange and yet so familiar. The idea that a machine can change the way you look is still foreign to the readers, yet the idea behind it isn't. Every day in our society people try to change the way they look just to please others. It's one of the most unhealthy things we do and in this story Seuss is seriously criticizing it.

There is a correlation between which words are rhymed in this story. "Stars" and "thars" (referring to the bellies of the Sneetches, 'theirs') are often rhymed together (27-28). This is obviously because the Star-Bellied Sneetches are so proud of their stars while the Plain-Bellied Sneetches are embarrassed having upon thars. This example just shows how deeply entrenched their prejudice it. Another example is how "near" and "year" are rhymed together (5-6). Whereas the first rhyme shows how deep the prejudice is, Seuss uses this example of rhyme to show how long the prejudice has been going on.





"Oh, the Places You'll Go!"



YouTube - "Oh,The Places You'll Go!"
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Congratulations!

You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

(5) You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
(10) And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don't choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
you're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

(15) And you may not find any
you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course,
you'll head straight out of town.

It's opener there
(20) in the wide open air.

Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.

(25) And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.

OH!
(30) THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!


"Oh, the Places You'll Go!," written by writer, poet, and cartoonist Theodore Geisel (under the pen-name Dr. Seuss), highlights aspects of the journey everyone takes through life. The narrator mentions successes but focuses mainly on what are called "hang-ups, bang-ups, lurches, and prickle-ly perches." The book is told in second-person (although the narrator does refer to itself as "I") and in the future tense. It is most likely told in second-person to encourage the reader or whoever the narrator is speaking to to do great thing and to heed the narrator's advice. The narrator most likely references himself to show its insight on life and also share its experience. It is most likely told in the future tense to encourage the reader to look forward rather than dwell on misfortunes.

The poem starts with an introduction stanza which sets up the book. The narrator tells the reader "Today is your day" and "You're off and away!' (2, 4). These short, terse sentences are like the quick "congratulation's" and "good luck's" someone would receive when they achieve something and are starting a new stage in life. After the fourth line ("You're off and away!'), the poem also takes off and changes pace. The narrator paints a picture with "brains in your head" and "feet in your shoes" and chooses the words "steer yourself" to show that one has control of his or her life (5-7). Here, it is important to point out the meter Seuss uses in this poem (and many of his other poems). Seuss often writes in anapestic tetrameter, meaning that each line is composed of 4 feet with each foot including 2 unstressed beats followed by a stressed beat. Example:
With your head | full of brains | and your shoes | full of feet
you're too smart | to go down | any not | so good street.
Dr. Seuss most likely uses this meter to have a level of consistency in his stories but also to show the change in mood or tone of the poem as the meter also changes. Anapests sounds like horses galloping and in this poem specifically it encourages the reader to keep moving forward. Sometimes the meter has what is called an orphan anapest, where the first unstressed beat is left off. Example:
And YOU | are the guy | who'll decide | where to go.
The reason why Seuss' use of meter is important is because in line 8 the meter completely changes direction as the line starts with a trochee (stressed followed by unstressed) and doesn't include a single anapest. Line 8 is "any direction you choose." So here, Seuss changes the direction of the meter as the narrator tells the reader to make their own directional choices in life. Seuss uses the change of meter many times to show a shift in the poem.

The next stanza encourages the reader to make good decisions in life - to "look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care" (11). This entire stanza is a perfect example of anapestic tetrameter as all four lines follow the meter. Just like this stanza says one should follow the right streets and make good decisions, the meter in this stanza is also well-followed. In addition, this stanza has imagery repetition as it mentions "your head full of brains and your shoes fulls of feet" (13). By bringing up this image again it reinforces the idea that by making right decisions one can have an extremely bright future. The next stanza includes an orphan anapest on the line that makes the point that there might not be any streets to follow. The orphan anapest shows the feelings the traveler might be experiencing as this occurs. This example of the town with streets is a metaphor for life: one must pick the right paths to succeed in life and one should tread carefully and look down each road to find the right one. After the narrator says that the reader doesn't find any streets to go down he says "you'll head straight out of town" (18). The next stanza has syntax identical to what the text says, simply: "It's opener there, in the wide open air" (19-20).

Another shift occurs which mentions the bad things that can occur out in the open air. This shift also occurs within the meter as Seuss writes:
Out there things | can happen
A strong use of diction occurs with words like "brainy" and "footsy" to describe the people that bad things can happen to as well (23, 24). Then the syntax is indicative of the bad things as the sentences become short like a coach talking to his players. The narrator says "Don't worry. Don't stew. Just go right along. You'll start happening too" (26-28). This stanza ends positively as it carries into the last two lines of this excerpt "OH! THE PLACES YOU'LL GO!"



"The Lorax"



YouTube - "The Lorax"

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"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top if my lungs"-
(5) he was very upset as he shouted and puffed-
"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"
"Look, Lorax," I said."There's no cause for alarm.
I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm.
I'm being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed.
(10) A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove, It's a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets!
Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats!"
(15) The Lorax said,
"Sir! You are crazy with greed.
There is no one on earth
who would buy that fool Thneed!"

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong.
(20) For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight
I laughed at the Lorax, "You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy."
(25) "I repeat," cried the Lorax,
"I speak for the trees!"
"I'm busy," I told him.
"Shut up, if you please."
I rushed 'cross the room, and in no time at all,
(30) built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, "Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
(35) Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch."
And, in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family
was working full tilt.
(40) We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping
of Truffula Trees.


In "The Lorax," another story by Theodore Geisel, the Once-ler, a capitalist money-seeker, tells the story of the Lorax. This story is told in first-person by the Once-ler and has an underlying theme about a cost of capitalism: the destruction of the environment. It is most likely in first-person so that the story can be told completely to provide details and explain what happened and why the Lorax left. First-person is also likely used to show the Once-ler's side of the argument (who is basically portrayed as the enemy) and his point of view.

In this first few lines of this excerpt, the Lorax confronts the Once-ler asking why he is destroying the trees that grow, called the Truffula trees. In almost a use of personification the Lorax says that "the trees have no tongues" and that he speaks "for the trees" (3). The narrator mentions that the Lorax is frustrated and thus "he shouted and puffed" (5). His frustration is demonstrated by the persistent use of anapest (see the above explanation in "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"). For example:
And I'm ask | ing you sir | at the top | of my lungs
By using the example of the imaginary Truffula tree, the narrator uses imagery to paint a picture of something that is very valuable and important to those who live in the area and thus highlight the cost of cutting them down. Lines 8 and 9 are part of the Once-ler's response to the Lorax's complaints and are short in length to show his almost defensive attitude as he says "I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm. I'm being quite useful. This thing is a Thneed." The Thneed is another image used to counter that of the Truffula tree; "It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove, It's a hat" (11). Seuss also uses the anapest meter to highlight the importance and significance of the Thneed to the Once-ler as he writes:
A Thneed's | a Fine-Some | thing-That-All | -People-Need!
(Note the orphan anapest)
Both syntax and imagery are used to show the importance of the Thneed. The short sentences in lines 11-14 are like quick jabs and arguments made in a hurry. The use of imagery by mentioning something like a bicycle seat shows how useful the Thneed is. The author uses imagery, syntax, and meter to show the different sides in this argument. Eventually the Once-ler becomes dismissive with a quick "shut up, if you please" (28). The Once-ler invites his family to join in his profit and provides detail to the reader with directions such as "Take the road to North Nitch. Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch. The narrator then references how hard his family works to create Thneeds by using imagery and a simile and saying they were knitting "just as busy as bees" (41).

In many of his stories, Dr. Seuss works to include an important theme. In "The Lorax," as previously mentioned, the theme is the importance of the environment and how capitalist motives can often stand in the way. Seuss makes the argument that by doing one poor action against the environment, it opens the floodgates to many terrible actions occurring. At the beginning the Once-ler says "I chopped just one tree. I am doing no harm" and by the end the Once-ler's family is working "to the sound of the chopping of Truffula trees" (8, 42-43). Seuss is somewhat ironic and critical of society when he writes "A Thneed's a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!" (10). Finally, when a man buys a Thneed "for three ninety-eight," it is clear the Once-ler is making Thneeds for a cheap profit and is willing to endanger the environment for a quick gain (22).




ery next minute I proved he was wrong.
For, just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three ninety-eight
I laughed at the Lorax, "You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy."
"I repeat," cried the Lorax,
"I speak for the trees!"
"I'm busy," I told him.
"Shut up, if you please."
I rushed 'cross the room, and in no time at all,
built a radio-phone. I put in a quick call.
I called all my brothers and uncles and aunts
and I said, "Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler Family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch.
Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch."
And, in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler Family
was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees,
to the sound of the chopping
of Truffula Trees.