In memory of Dr. Seuss’ death on Sept. 24th, I felt compelled to reminisce on my childhood and how dearly I loved his writing. When my age was in the single digits, I had that spirited, colour-outside-the-lines, ask-too-many-questions, exasperatingly imaginative personality of an oddball child. The world was mine to discover and then recreate. I fashioned entire universes in my mind, and it felt as easy as breathing.
Somewhere along the way, I began to filter these many fabrications, and looking back now I feel unimpressed and dismissive of the remarkable imagination I once had. This is perhaps Dr. Seuss’ greatest strength; he never underestimated the intelligence of a child. There may be some symbolic significance we might claim we recognize, or some clever rhymes that we are certain we understand – but his stories are not meant for adults. Dr. Seuss has captured a child’s bright-eyed logic, a vaguely familiar territory where maturity fails us.
There is something inherently unforgettable about his writing – even now I can remember certain stories verbatim. It is almost as though Dr. Seuss has tapped into the biological development of a young mind, writing stories that fulfill a child’s hunger for language, rhythm, and rhetoric wordplay. His words imprint themselves in our brains, not quite like the jingle of an annoying commercial, but in the same addictive and perplexing way (your very need to purge them causes you to replay them, thus committing them even further into memory). For these reasons, Seuss is culturally ubiquitous as he brings together all the elements that make his stories indelible in our consciousness.
Furthermore, his works go far beyond all literary boundaries. He invents words and names and follows no rules of sentence structure or punctuation. And he is purposeful in his creativity. His writing is thick with sophisticated implications. The message is clear: nonsensical things can have beauty, meaning, and relevance - his stories for example, or a child’s absurd thoughts and strange questions. Dr. Seuss’ work is a celebration of the writer’s craft; he is proof of the endless possibilities that the English language has to offer.
There is also a faintly Orwellian quality to many of his stories, where he uses innocent symbolism and fable-like tales to depict warnings or morals about the real world. For example, for me, the story of the Lorax is one that continues to inspire curiosity and emotion. The rhetoric of the story’s surface is explicit and self-contained. Dr. Seuss advocates against the greed of capitalism and expresses the consequences of commercialism and disrespect towards the environment, among other things. However, there is something especially unique about the character of the Lorax. Even now when I read it, the figure of the small, strangely ineffectual but paternal creature evokes a powerful sense of nostalgia, pathos, and guilt.
I respond to the story as strongly as I did when I was child, the parable has not yet failed to evoke a passionate kind of reaction. It is also impossible to shrug the feeling that there is far more to Seuss’ story than meets the casually analytical eye. All these components combine to create a tale that survives repeated reflection, as we get older and wiser. Dr. Seuss has created a style of writing and illustration that is completely his own. When you bring pen to paper and try to write just like him, the world is your palette – it shifts to your every whim. There is more to our world than meets the eye, yes you see. In fact, close your eyes, that’s when you’ll really be free. There’s no yookeroo too small, no foo-foo too tall! The grass is blue and the sky is green, the sun is a yellow popcorn machine. Breakfast of green eggs and ham with Sam I am, some ball with the Sneetches – but only those that have stars.
And then a feast with the Grinch, the Cat in the Hat, his fish in a jar! I said what I meant, and I meant what I said – all around you is paper, your mind is a pen, do as you please – one hundred percent! Imaginations is fascination - creation – contemplation – your very own ation! You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose!