Lessons from Dr. Seuss: The Sneetches
November 14, 2012
Who was your favorite author as a child? For me, hands down, it’s Dr. Seuss. Is there anybody who is unfamiliar with the late Theodore Geisel? Having grown up in the latter half of the twentieth century, it is almost impossible to not know his books. And yet now as an adult, I find that they delight me just as much as when I was little. So what is your favorite Dr. Seuss story?
I have to say that the tale that still resonates with me to this day is the story of The Sneetches. While not quite as famous as that wily Cat in the Hat or present stealing Grinch, The Sneetches present one of the most unsubtle yet powerful arguments about the idiocy of racism. This "kids" book teaches a valuable lesson that adults could probably be reminded of once in a while.
For those unfamiliar with the tale, or those who have simply forgotten, The Sneetches is the story of the mistreatment that the Sneetches with stars on their bellies inflict on those without. When a man named McBean appears with a machine that can give stars to those starless Sneetches, for a price of course, the Sneetches with stars decide to have theirs removed. This starts a constant merry-go round of adding and removing stars until it ends with all of the Sneetches flat broke and unable to tell who originally had a star and who did not, thus erasing the divisions that had existed.
This story passes a lesson of both vanity and the ridiculousness of dividing society based on physical appearance. The question of why the Sneetches with stars felt superior to those without can also be asked of why those with one skin color feel they are better than those of another skin color. When the Sneetches lose the ability to differentiate between one another simply by looking, they are forced to realize that they are all the same, whether a star is on the belly or not.
It makes one wonder what would happen if everyone in the world suddenly became color blind, literally unable to differentiate between one another based on the color of the skin. Would we learn the same lesson as the Sneetches, or would we simply find yet another way to separate each other? It is amazing that such a simple rhyming story meant for children could have such a profound message.