more overthinking “The Lorax”

Yesterday I beat The Lorax to death and pulled out symbolism that might have left Dr. Seuss shaking his head. Fun, huh? Let’s do it again.

The more I read the story, the more compassion I feel for the Onceler. Who is he? He’s an inventor. He’s a good inventor. He wants to support his family. He doesn’t think too far into the future, true, but the Lorax’s shrill preaching actually pushes him into a defensive stance from which he cannot retreat. In the face of the Lorax’s name-calling and accusations (that seems to be the only way the Lorax communicates), the Onceler finally issues an ultimatum: he will not stop. That is, until nature itself stops him.

And for myself, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a dual message to The Lorax. First, that we should treat nature with care. That’s your obvious one. That’s the reason you’ll find t-shirts with the Lorax on them for sale on college campuses.

But secondly: when we’re protecting the helpess, we need to move gently. If the Lorax had said to the Onceler, “Excuse me, but if you kill all the trees, then you won’t have any more trees. Once there are no more trees, you can’t sustain your industry. What you need to do is replant trees and harvest them more slowly. Or cut down half a tuft from each tree rather than the whole tree.” Then the Onceler might have listened.

That second message never gets highlighted. The message at the end was that the Onceler was bad and needed to repent. But maybe so did the Lorax.

About philangelus

Mom, freelance writer, novelist, angelphile, Catholic, know-it-all.
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7 Responses to more overthinking “The Lorax”

  1. Diinzumo says:

    Indeed, the second message is a good one. In the grips of whatever fervor you’re supporting, you can forget what kind of negative effect it might have on those you’re trying to convince. I’ve seen plenty of evidence at the adoption center. And I do try not to go off the deep end and lecture too much, but I suspect it’s my nature.

  2. philangelus says:

    I can’t imagine you doing that (except to the “No cats for you!” crowd, but then gain, you’re not putting them off because, well, they were pretty much not getting a cat anyhow!)

    There have been too many times when I’ve wanted to start screaming, “Get off my side! You’re making us look bad!” for whatever issue it may happen to be. The sad thing, though, is I’m not sure Dr. Seuss ever considered that angle of it. The Lorax is seen as the hero throughout even though he screeches, rants, badmouths and insults the Onceler as his first line of defense.

  3. Cricket says:

    Always leave the other person an honourable way out. One of the hundred or so rules I try to live by. Sometimes what you think is an honourable way out doesn’t look that way to the other person, which makes it even harder. Yeah, I feel for the Onceler, but he’s also the one making big bucks; he has the resources to spend on research, so it’s his responsibility to do it.

  4. Pingback: Overthinking “The Lorax” « Seven angels, four kids, one family

  5. Ashley says:

    Ha, my Earth Science teacher made us watch this for today’s lesson. I thought it was kinda cute besides the whole ‘chopping down trees/ pollution/ cute swany swans leaving’.
    I would have to agree with OnceLer. He’s an inventor and selling his invention. Sure, he could have told everyone no dumping in the river or no littering, but that’s what happens at almost every business.

  6. Kia says:

    I believe the issue Dr. Seuss was getting at was not the environment at all, but our consumption of useless things. How we fill our life with needless things and miss the beauty of life.

    • philangelus says:

      While that’s a part of the message, the Lorax “speaks for the trees” and the story focuses on the environmental impact of rampant consumerism (the death of the trees, the starvation of the little bears, the birds choked by smog) rather than only on the inability of the Onceler to see the beauty around him.

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