Dr. Seuss

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

‘The Lorax’ was published in 1971 and is one of Dr. Seuss’s most popular books. It follows the main character, the Lorax who speaks for the trees and stands up against environmental destruction. The creatures that Seuss created for this book are accompanied by numerous examples of nonsense language and imagery that is stereotypically Seussian. The illustrations are brightly colored and entertaining all on their own. Since its publication, the book has been aimed as one of teacher’s Top 100 Books for Children and ranked in the top of the best picture books ever published

Seuss stated that this book, of all those that he had written, was his favorite. He went on to describe how it allowed him to address both environmental and economic issues and express his exaggeration with the world. 

An interesting piece of trivia that goes along with The Lorax comes in the form of a follow-up publication written by Terri Birkett, who was part of a family-owned hardwood flooring company. The company put out the book as a “logging-friendly” perspective on the environment.

You can read the full book The Lorax here.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss


Structure of The Lorax

‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss is a sixty-four-page book that uses numerous rhymes, internal and end rhymes, to create a pleasing and continuous rhythm. As with all Dr. Seuss books, the rhymes are numerous and often amusing. Seuss was known to coin words, known as nonsense words, in order to create ever more interesting rhymes and images. This technique of creating words often comes along with alliteration. For example, “miff-muffered moof” and “Swomee-Swans”. 

There are several other literary devices at play in ‘The Lorax.’ These include anthropomorphism and imagery. Anthropomorphism is used frequently. within Seuss’s works in order to give non-human things and creatures the ability to act, think, and create as humans do. The imagery in ‘The Lorax’ is also notable. This includes the illustrations but is also broader. It refers to the ways that Seuss is able to tap into human senses, including sight, sound, and touch. His descriptions allow one to imagine this fictional world clearly. 


Analysis of The Lorax

Part One  

In the first part of this rather dark, but still amusing and entertaining story, the speaker introduces a young boy. This child, who lives in a town filled with pollution, has an encounter with a strange man known as the “Once-ler”. This man tells the boy about the Lorax. He was a creature who once “stood” there before it was lifted away. 

Throughout this section of the book, a reader will be exposed to literary devices such as alliteration which phrases like “Grickle-grass grows”. There are also examples of sibilance with “smells slow-and-sour”. Seuss also uses ellipses quite frequently. They help build suspense and even in some cases take the reader to the next page or around an image.

Because many of the words that Seuss coined are unusual, and their meanings total unknown, the young reader or listener has to figure out for themselves with a “Lerkim” or what “miff-muffered moof” is. There is a whole complex process to hear what the Once-ler has to say. It includes payment and a secretive phone call. 


Part Two 

In the next pages of ‘The Lorax,’ the Once-ler tells his story of how the Lorax was taken away. It was back in a time when the world was less polluted than it is today. This engages a child’s imagination further, encouraging them to reconsider the world Seuss made as well as their own. The trees were bright-colored and they went on for miles. There are strange animals and rippling ponds. The Once-ler returns again and again to the trees. Seuss uses repetitive exclamation marks to emphasize the strange man’s excitement.  

Unfortunately, the man does not respect the tress enough to leave them alone. He describes cutting them down to build a shop. While this was going on there was a “ga-Zump!” and the Lorax appeared. Seuss repeated the suffixes of words like “shortish,” “brownish,” and “oldish” to describe the creature. He is existing in some kind of liminal space where he is not quite one thing or another. 

The Lorax asserts that it was wrong of the Once-ler to chop down the tree but he is not deterred. He sells his products and soon his little shop becomes a factory and the environment slowly becomes more and more polluted. Finally, the last tree is chopped down. This is very clearly an allusion to our own world and the greed of those who put their interests over those of the larger world and everyone who lives in it.


Part Three 

The business was booming, but it was short-lived. Now that all the trees are gone things change. There is an interesting passage when the Once-ler tries to explain why he “had to grow bigger”. The excuse goes in a circle, making no real sense and hopefully sounding just as absurd to a child listening as it does to the Lorax. 

The Lorax tries to explain to the man the harm he’s doing but he won’t listen. He’s tired of hearing the Lorax yap-yap” and demands to be let alone. He has his “rights” and is unwilling to sacrifice anything that he has to help the world. In the end, once the trees were gone, everyone abandoned the Once-ler. He was left alone with the smoggy world and the empty factory.


Part Four

Finally, when there is nothing else left for him to do, the Lorax lifts himself up by the “seat of his pants” and flies away. He leaves the Once-ler with a grim look and a pile of rocks that said “UNLESS”. The man doesn’t know what to make of this message and worries over it for years. He finally comes to the conclusion that the “UNLESS” is in reference to the one person, perhaps the young boy, who can change things. The world will still be a mess “UNLESS” there is someone who cares “a whole awful lot”. 

The book concludes with the boy catching the last Truffla seed from the trees that the Once-ler cut down. It’s up to him now to care for the world and perhaps then the Lorax and all his friends will come back. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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