The Influence of Dr. Seuss
The Influence of Dr. Seuss
Theodor Seuss Geisel was a very influential man. His books have influenced several generations of children and adults throughout the years of his published work. Although Dr. Seuss passed away in 1991, his vast collection of written material is still influencing people of all ages across the world. Some of his work has been considered controversial, some considered nothing more than children’s fantasy stories, and some politically charged propaganda worthy of stirring huge debates among the affecters and detractors. There must have been a million things going on in the world that would stir such emotion; such simple satisfaction, and such turmoil to come from children’s books. An exploration of Seuss reveals certain influential factors; from the way he viewed things at certain times in his life, to the points he wanted to get across when detailing his ideas in the rhythmic fashion of poetry and prose. The influence of his work can be seen in commercialism, capitalism, and democracy. Born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, MA, Seuss started writing children’s books in 1937. His first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 or 43 times before publication (Baker, 2012, Nel, 2004). That little detail alone stands as a testament to how dedicated he was to being successful. It also makes for an interesting point in the development of his sense of humor. In the book Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Seuss is labeled as a “critically undervalued” talent due to the “slight-of-hand” trickery he was able to master (Nel, 2004, p.337). Seuss was able to accomplish several things with his style of writing combined with that developed sense of humor. He was able to reach children at their own level with vibrant color schemes, rhyming poems, and equality while ambiguously, and, sometimes, laconically relating to adults with his word choice. In fact, in the early part of his career his word choice was a bit more direct in draft versions of published books. Nel (2004) describes how Seuss did have to hold his humor in check, peppering drafts of children’s books with sexual rhymes and dirty jokes only to remove them before publication. For example, in a draft of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, we find a well-endowed woman accompanied by this rhyme: ‘‘Big X, little x. X, X, X. Someday, kiddies, you will learn about SEX’’ (Thomas, 2004). Ultimately he would clean up his children’s books but he never lost his sense of humor or his sense of direction.
Dr. Seuss’s influence continues past his mastery of words and telling stories. He had a direct influence on the world of commercialism. Seuss had an indifference to money; therefore, commercializing some of his characters and capitalizing on the products were minimal and mostly designed to encouraged creativity. There were some television specials and story time toys and Seuss did authorize, during his lifetime, commercial products other than television specials and creative products such as lunchboxes and plush toys. Seuss did not allow characters from his books to be used in advertising for unrelated products and often turned down requests to license his work, once remarking “I’d rather go into the Guinness Book of World Records as the writer who refused the most money per word” (Nel, 2004). He had moral fiber that is hard to find in the celebrity walk of life.
Being stubborn like that and never losing his way or giving in to the corruptive powers of materialism was one of the many enduring qualities of Seuss. He didn’t feel the need to let capitalism destroy the moral of his stories and books. However, like Charles Schulz’s A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), which made its television debut the year before Chuck Jones’s animated Grinch (for which Seuss himself wrote the screenplay), the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! criticizes the commercialization of the holiday. Now, as Schulz’s TV special did and as popular...
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