Does "Horton Hears a Who" Have Political Undertones?
Theodor Geisel -- or Dr. Seuss -- wrote "Horton Hears a Who" in 1954. It's the story of Horton, a lumbering elephant who discovers a miniature civilization on a speck of dust. Like many of Geisel's children's books, the story of Horton and Whoville also speaks to adults. The author used the tale to express several of his own political views.
1 Seuss and Politics
Geisel was not shy about sharing his political views. Before he created Horton, he produced editorial cartoons for PM, a politically left-wing daily newspaper. Between 1941 and 1943, PM printed hundreds of Geisel's cartoons, which criticized isolationism, racism and anti-Semitism and gave voice to his hatred of Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese.
2 Horton and Whoville
When Geisel turned to children's literature, he brought his politics with him. After visiting postwar Japan -- where the author felt himself towering over Japanese children -- Geisel wrote the Horton story as a criticism of discrimination. The hero's mantra -- "a person's a person, no matter how small" -- is about the importance of tolerance and the value of the individual. When a bird drops the dust speck into a field of poppies, the tiny citizens of Whoville must cope with major destruction as the Japanese did following the war. The story can also be considered a criticism of American isolationism. Horton and the people of Whoville are interdependent; each needs the other to survive. Other themes include the importance of staying loyal to a cause and the power of collective action. The people of Whoville ultimately survive because they rally together to make their voices heard.
- 1 Disney, Pixar and the Hidden Messages of Children's Films; M. Keith Booker
- 2 PBS: The Political Dr. Seuss
- 3 Springfield Library and Museums Association: The Political Dr. Seuss
- 4 The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss: The Life and Work of Theodor Geisel; Thomas Fensch