Monday, September 17, 2012

My Professor Knows Dr. Seuss Better Than Me

"Now, I love Dr. Seuss," the professor clarified. "I'm 100-percent positive that my entire childhood could have been completely different without Dr. Seuss' influence."

She took care to enunciate each letter and syllable in her speech as she always had, but something about hearing a grown woman speak of Dr. Seuss with such clarity made me smile. The woman I see three times a week pacing the classroom--with a very determined look on her face that strikes students as intimidating, which could just be, in fact, a natural expression carved into bone from years of growing pains and the stress of what Dr. Seuss didn't teach her--does not seem like she ever could have been a child. We often forget that, though. We forget that the people we know now have more to them--a history they may never reveal to us--and we must learn to accept the possibility that what we think we know of them could change, and to never assume we know enough. 

"I love Dr. Seuss," she said again. "He's done wonderful work... but as a political theorist? Not so much." 

Literary analysis is her forte; our study of a Marxist critique has been most prominent in her lesson plan--every fairy tale we have dissected has had a class system (sometimes feudal-esque) with those who struggle and those who have sat on top of the hill, born there with callous-less skin, without the pain of ever having to climb their way up. 

And what of Yertle the Turtle? I was under the impression it had some sort of political, underlying message. Canadians sure think so.* When mini-professor read Yertle the Turtle, I wonder what her impressionable mind thought--or, perhaps, she (not surprisingly) popped out of a gifted womb with a skeptical mind that tinkered with words more than toys. Perhaps Seuss' political background isn't enough to fool my professor. She is the one teaching us, after all. Seuss' anapestic tetrameter is unforgiving, and, according to many literary analysts, so are his overall themes in his writing.

"I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we, too, should have rights." The quote rolled through my mind. It's not a ground-breaking message, but it means something. It didn't start revolutions, but it came during and after we saw them. Seuss introduced generations to the ideas they would later learn about in history classes. When I was 7-years-old I was not juxtaposing women's rights, prohibition or civil rights to the turtles on top and the turtles on bottom. To me, they were turtles that brought up ideas I only grasped on a small, fundamental level. Perhaps my professor--whose age is still unknown to the class--saw it firsthand and sees his political work differently. Maybe scratching the surface isn't enough for someone who truly understood it.

It's like reading about the Dust Bowl, but never twirling in its desert-y misery. All you may know is green grass and the feel of similar-looking currency. 


  1. Wonderful as usual :)

    Isn't it funny how the literature of our childhood often contains far greater lessons than the stuff we read as adults?

  2. I always knew there was more to Green Eggs and Ham!


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