Oh, the Places He Took Us!
A poet, a teacher, an activist – These are all the things that Theodor Seuss Geisel managed to be. Geisel was born into the German family of Theodor Robert Geisel and Henrietta Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904. He grew up having pride in his German background, but it all changed to shame after he experienced the torment of living through WWI. Despite the discouraging experiences he had during those times, they were not enough to stop the very talented “Dr. Seuss”. Geisel showed many that there were no boundaries to the imagination. Because of the hardships he had to overcome, the impact he left on young children, and the criticism he received from others, Theodor Seuss Geisel will always be remembered as the author, “Dr. Seuss, a man with a limitless imagination”.
Both his mother and father played a big part in helping Geisel become who he was. From a young age his parents were able to see that he had potential. When his father would take him to the zoo, Geisel found himself drawing some of the animals he would see. Even though his sister, Margaretha Christine Geisel, would make fun of his illustrations because they were greatly out of proportion, he always stayed true to his unique style and way of thinking. When his father realized how talented Geisel was, he wanted Geisel to send a drawing to The Youth’s Companion magazine to see what they thought of Geisel’s abilities. They said, “Yes…he had talent” (Morgan12). From then on out his father urged him to keep on drawing. “While his father encouraged [Geisel] in his drawing, [his mother] fostered his awareness of the pleasures of words” (Morgan 14). His mother always wanted to go to college but wasn’t able to because she had to tend to her father’s bakery. So she wanted to make sure her children would be able to get a good education and go to college. She started off by reading to them. She would read bed time storied to them to try to encourage them that reading can be fun and succeeded. Geisel later stated that, more than anyone else, his mother was responsible “for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it” (Morgan 7).
Even though his parents were always there for him, they weren’t able to protect him from the ridicule he received living through World War I as a child. It was hard being a German family living in the United States during the 1917’s which was when the US Congress officially declared war against Germany. “Suddenly [Geisel’s] German descent was no longer a mantle of pride but one of shame” (Levine 15). There were even reports of Germans being stoned in the cities that were nearby. Geisel and his sister soon started to discuss ways to try to avoid the harassment they would receive at school. One of Geisel’s schoolmates told him “that he was being described as ‘the German brewer’s kid with the three-legged dog” (Levine 16). He would try to play it off that it didn’t bother him, but the results of the mockery he received showed up in some of his later writings. “The books he later became famous for were often written about characters who were different, exclude, or persecuted” (Levine 17).
Geisel’s first wife, Helen Palmer Geisel, also influenced him in his career choice. Geisel and Ms. Palmer both were students at Oxford University when they met. Ms. Palmer always believed that Geisel was fit to take on a career in art. “Ted grew to respect the academic discipline he discovered at Dartmouth” and from then on out, he wanted to become a professor (Morgan 28). But when Ms. Palmer caught him doodling in class, she suggested that being a college professor didn’t suit him. She told him, “You’re crazy to be a professor… What you really want to do is draw” (Morgan 45). But Geisel didn’t officially change his career choice until later on. He realized what he really wanted to do when he was vacationing in France with Ms. Palmer. He stated that “he had had enough of university study, he would never teach school”...
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