Term Paper: Seuss and WWII the Political

Pages: 11 (3562 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Hitler, Prop." On a barn in the backdrop (Available online at (http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dspolitic/pm/10519cs.jpg).In the cartoon, Hitler is surrounded by milking jugs and milking stools, and as the figure of a smiling, many-legged cow with multiple udders walks by with its eyes closed. Each of the separate bodies of the cow is marked with the name of a separate European country, France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Jugoslavia (sic), Romania, Greece, and Austria, followed by a cow with a simple question mark to indicate that other nations will follow (Minear, A Catalog; Wikipedia).

Seuss was also quick to criticize American interests, and American isolationists were a favorite target, One of the most notable of these cartoons was published in PM Magazine on July 16, 1941 (Available online at (http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/speccoll/dspolitic/pm/10716cs.jpg).This cartoon shows a smiling whale sitting on top of a mountain, with as small mountaineer looking at it in wonder. The text below, titled "The Isolationist," reads:

Said a whale, "There is so much commotion,

Such fights among fish in the ocean,

I'm saving my scalp

Living high on an Alp

Dear Lindy! He gave me the notion!").

In this cartoon, Seuss is clearly criticizing the American refusal to engage in the events of WWII. Specifically, the U.S. had refused to engage in the affairs of European powers, and to stay neutral in wars between European powers. "Lindy" likely refers to the Charles Lindbergh, an advocate of the isolationist group America First, and a common target of Seuss' cartoons. Lindenberg was a well-known flier who had often made anti-Semitic remarks and was known as an isolationist (Milnear, Geisel and Spiegelman). Seuss clearly felt that America should intervene in the war in Europe.

The editorial cartoons produced during Seuss' tenure at PM magazine clearly show the whimsical nature that characterized a great deal of his later children's literature. In his cartoons, Seuss used a number of animals like dragons, seals, whales and dogs to illustrate his ideas, and often placed them in fanciful positions. Characters in the cartoons were drawn with enlarged eyelashes, with enormous goofy smiles, and unorthodox body proportions. Animals were used commonly in Seuss' cartoons to represent both America's allies and enemies, with Germany often depicted as a dachshund dog, and America drawn as an eagle (Milnear, Geisel and Spiegelman).

The impact of Seuss' editorial cartoons on the American population is difficult to estimate. Clearly, Seuss was a reflection of the ideas and beliefs of many Americans. For example, Seuss' portraits of Japanese and Japanese-Americans became more virulent and racist as the war grew increasingly difficult, and American opinion of the Japanese grew more unfavorable and racist as well. Seuss' belief that America should enter the war and his clear and pointed dislike of, and opposition to, the isolationist point-of-view was also shared by many Americans (Nel).

Importantly, Seuss' cartoons also played an important role in shaping American public opinion. Specifically, his 1942 cartoons that lampooned the anti-Semitic ideas of Catholic Pries Father Coughlin was influential in discrediting the priest (Milnear, Geisel and Spiegelman). Seuss' attacks on isolationist, dictators and fascists also likely played an important role in solidifying public opinion for an America that was involved in the war. Seuss also encouraged Americans to buy war savings bonds and stamps, put up with shortages, and help to control inflation, thus encouraging Americans to support the war effort (Milnear, Geisel and Spiegelman).

Political Aspects of Seuss' Children's Literature

Seuss' work during WWII clearly had a profound influence on the political content and the visual components of much of his later writing of children's literature. Many of the characters created during his tenure at PM magazine appeared in a different guise in his later children's literature. For example, the isolationist whale depicted in his July 16, 1941 PM cartoon appeared in later literature with no clear political undertones. Examples of the whale, complete with a round body and long eyelashes, appear in On Beyond Zebra as Wumbus, and in McElligot's Pool, and If I Ran the Circus. Similarly, the many legged cow used to spoof Hitler's actions in May 19, 1941 appeared later as the character of Umbus in On Beyond Zebra. Similarly, insects with huge stingers that were used to portray allied aircraft in his editorial cartoons appeared later as the character of Sneedle in On Beyond Zebra. The symbol of an elephant was used to represent India in several of his political cartoons, and the elephant character was used later Seuss' children's literature (Wikipedia). Even his famous character from the story Cat in the Hat bears a strong resemblance to Uncle Sam (Milnear, Geisel and Spiegelman).

WWII continued to shape Seuss' writings long after his tenure writing political cartoons had ended. After WWII, Seuss and his wife Helen moved to La Jolla, California. Here, he wrote a number of children's books that had often overlooked political undertones that were likely influenced by his political "awakening" during WWII and his tenure as a political cartoonist with PM Magazine.

In Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, published in 1958, Seuss reiterated his dislike of totalitarianism that was repeatedly seen in his cartoons for PM Magazine. In the book, Yertle begins the tale as the king of a small pond, where all of the turtles are happy and occupied. One day, Yertle decides that he should rule more land, and that he should be lifted higher on his throne in order to see more and thus expand his dominion. He is never satisfied, seeing only more opportunities and more land to rule, and even becomes so absorbed in his struggle for power that he is angered at the moon "That dares to be higher than Yertle the King" (Seuss). Eventually, Yertle's enormous throne is toppled by a burp by the quiet turtle Mack, who is the first brick of his throne. Yertle's dominion is ended by the simple action of one unassuming turtle.

In Yertle the Turtle, Seuss is clearly parodying the greed for power seen in leaders like Mussolini and Hitler. In the story, Seuss reveals that Yertle's throne, literally built on the backs of others, is ultimately worthless. In his May 19, 1941 cartoon for PM Magazine, Seuss described a similar scene, and depicted the nations of Europe as being milked by Adolf Hitler. As such, Yertle the Turtle is clearly a reiteration of the themes that Seuss explored in his earlier political cartoons.

In his book The Sneetches and Other Stories, published in 1961, Seuss reiterated the theme of tolerance and the attack of racism that was seen clearly in many of his editorial cartoons from PM Magazine. In The Sneetches and Other Stories, Seuss specifically tackled many of the issues of race that surrounded the emerging American Civil Rights Movement. Actually a compilation of four stories, each pleads for racial tolerance.

In the book, Seuss tells the story of a conman who exploits individuals who want to feel superior based solely upon their race (Seuss).

The Butter Battle Book, written in 1984, shows that Seuss' political and social conscience, honed during his time at PM Magazine was active well into his old age. The inspiration from the book came from Seuss's feelings about the cold war. Note Morgan and Morgan, Seuss was "brooding over the mounting cold war with the Soviet Union and believed that under Ronald Reagan the nuclear arms race was beyond control. Over dinner at La Valencia, he wondered out loud how a democratic government could impose 'such deadly stupidity' on people like him who were so opposed to nuclear proliferation." In response, he wrote The Butter Battle Book.

In The Butter Battle Book, the characters of the Zooks, wearing orange suits, prefer to eat their bread butter side down, while the Yooks, wearing blue suits, prefer to eat their bread with butter side up. This seemingly trivial difference sets them on a seemingly uncontrollable an arms race, which include the building of the relatively innocuous Triple-Sling Jigger, which progresses to the making of weapons like the Elephant-Toted Boom-Blitz, and finally ends with the creation of the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo, a tiny weapon of mass destruction. The book concludes with both the Yooks and Zooks in possession of the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo, and aiming to use it.

Perhaps the most overtly political of his works, The Butter Battle Book is a scathing parody of the nuclear arms race. It clearly shows the recklessness of the actors on both side of the race (the United States and the Soviet Union), and depicts the arms race as both irrefutably irresponsible and deeply destructive. In the ambiguous conclusion of The Butter Battle Book, the Zooks and Yooks (representing the United States and the Soviet Union) are clearly ready to use the weapon.

Seuss also continued to expand on the political content that he explored in PM Magazine with a foray into political writing with his book Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! The book was spurred by Seuss' interest… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Seuss and WWII the Political."  Essaytown.com.  April 25, 2004.  Accessed June 26, 2019.