Dr. Seuss. The Lorax (New York: Random House, 1957, 1971)
We don’t always need to read long complicated books written by philosophers to be exposed to novel and interesting ideas. Many times it is the very simple works that can teach us about life and its dilemmas more than anything else. One such book, and a big favorite of mine for so many years is Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.
Definitely a classic and it is a timeless work because even today it is so relevant to what is happening in our current world as we know and experience it. The book is Dr. Seuss’s polemic environmental treatise written for children.
Although written decades ago, the book sends a clear message that is so telling of the times we live in, more so than when it was first published. The book was first published back in 1957 and is sandwiched-in between two prominent works, Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949) and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962). All three of these books were among the first to be published in America that raised environmental awareness. And The Lorax was focused on the young minds of America to make them conscious of what greed and consumption could evolve into if it was not curtailed. The book expresses its message in cartoonish poetic prose and is accompanied by brightly colored illustrations, so typical of all Seuss’s books. It is philosophy for children.
The Lorax reveals the unpleasant consequences of material greed and environmental destruction. The luscious fresh land where the Lorax had once lived was a pristine paradise abundant with diverse flora and fauna. Magnificent colorful truffula trees flourished in its domain. Here is an excerpt….
Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-coloured tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze. (p. 12)
Then one day the Once-ler came and saw his a vast money-making opportunity. Those beautiful furry truffula trees were just what he needed, because they could be turned into such fine pricey items. Tons of money could be made with this new business venture. And the forests of the truffula trees were ravaged one by one. The destruction of the trees meant death for the Lorax, for without them the Lorax could not survive. Full of anguish the Lorax complained , but he was ignored. He pleaded louder and louder, but no one seemed to respect him. The Once-ler continued to ignore him. The beautiful Truffula Trees were chopped down faster than the Lorax could plead….
“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 of my lungs”—
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed—
“What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?” (p. 23)
So true of today, the consumerism which motivates us to want even more than what we really need. Our unending desire to satisfy our zest for life has culminated in a society that has become wasteful and demanding. And most of us think, well, we need these things and maybe the damage won’t be so bad, maybe it just won’t be so traumatic. Do we really understand the magnitude of the consequences of our continuous selfish consumerism? Oh, the excuses they make….
I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering…selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs. (p. 39)
Yes, everyone needs money and all sorts of material goods. Do we really need it? And wasn’t there a time when we did not even need the things that we have now? So many questions, so much to reflect on, and yet we as a society always try to find a way to trivialize and forget these profound questions? Would we continue to produce and consume if we knew it would eventually just ruin everything around us including the natural environment? Or, do we say “stop”! Do we reflect? Do we consider talking with others around us and ask them “do we really need all these material extravagances?”
The Lorax is enduring in its simple presentation of an ecological dilemma and society’s eroding values. Indeed it’s a great book to teach children about ecological values and for us adults it can also be a real treasure to read. The artwork is so bright and colorful, so who could resist reading this book? It is amazing how such a simple book can often be used to enhance discussions about present-day environmental problems.
The Lorax Movie will be showing in theaters starting March 2, 2012
You can watch the movie trailer here at these links: http://www.theloraxmovie.com/
Also be sure to visit the Random House website Seussville http://www.seussville.com
I think that Dr. Seuss will always continue to live on inside of us, because we know he had something important to say.
Karin Susan Fester
Review text, Karin Susan Fester © copyright 2011
Quotes used in this blog post were taken from The Lorax, Random House 1971 edition as indicated by the page numbers.
Photograph was made from the cover of the book.