Theodor Geisel Essay

2581 words - 11 pages

THESIS
Theodor Geisel’s political activism during World War II, especially in the form of his political cartoons, heavily influenced his work as a children’s author, and impacted the messages of Horton Hears a Who and Yertle the Turtle.
INTRODUCTION
Dr. Seuss is known for his phenomenal creatures, invented words, and rhymes that surpassed absurdity and became something beautiful. Before that, though, Theodor Geisel was nationally noted for his political cartoons during World War II that enticed the mind to do more than think, but to ask questions and crave knowledge and justice. Dr. Seuss was not just a whimsical alter-ego of Mr. Geisel by any means, however. Dr. Seuss ...view middle of the document...

They became shameful of their ancestry, and attempted to conceal it, to shield themselves from torment. Regardless of these efforts, Theodor Geisel was harassed in school and his family was mocked at home. He would later claim that because the Geisels were an established family, he was fortunate to have received minimal bullying, but this ordeal shaped the prejudices that were present in his political cartoons and cinema for the majority of his career (29).
Following his childhood in Springfield, Geisel attended college at Dartmouth University. He received excellent grades there, and majored in English. He was a prominent writer and cartoonist for the school’s comedy magazine, Jack O’ Lantern, and his first official writing position was chief editor of that magazine. He was banned from writing for it after he was caught violating prohibition. Unwilling to give up his writing position, he wrote under the pseudonym “Seuss”, and was never discovered by campus authorities. After graduation, he attended Oxford for graduate school. He did well at first, but soon the doodles in the margins of his notes began to conquer entire pages, and he realized graduate school was simply not for him. In the short time spent there, though, he met Helen Palmer, and fell in love. The two were married in 1927, and throughout their relationship she supported his artistic and literary career, and helped him create films and write books (21-27).
Helen and Theodor Geisel moved to New York City, and Geisel’s career flourished there. His fist success was as a cartoonist for Judge magazine. Following a cartoon which jokingly featured a brand of bug spray called “Flit”, the company hired him to do their advertising. His campaign featured cartoons of men facing giant beasts, frantically shouting “Quick, Henry, get the Flit!”. These ads were so popular that Geisel was able to support Helen and himself when other companies, including Standard Oil, hired him to advertise for them as well. This popularity caught the attention of a popular liberal newspaper, called PM, which is where he created his first political cartoons. He worked there from 1941-1942 (Dean 43-45).
The outbreak of World War II sparked a patriot and an activist in Geisel, and he had a thirst to voice his disgust in both global fascism and American isolationism. He was particularly appalled by an organization called American First, which advocated no involvement in the war, and in Hitler’s regime. He gained the admiration of many of the American people when President Roosevelt openly supported Geisel’s criticism of a decorated hero of war and isolationist named Lindbergh (Morgan 102). Philip Nel, noted for his study of Dr. Seuss’s life and works, credits the war for Geisel’s passion and advocacy of different groups- “Seuss’s work in the fight against fascism both galvanized his commitment to various issues and motivated him to write books that encourage readers to challenge certain structures of power”...

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