The Sneetches: Cultural and Social Equality

Posted: May 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

The Book: 

The book The Sneetches (1961) is an excellent example of the importance of celebrating diversity. When reading the book, it’s hard to miss its contained political messages. Written prior to World War II the text is often interpreted as an opposition to anti-Semitism. “The story is an obvious allegory about racism and discrimination, clearly inspired by the yellow stars that the Nazis required Jews to wear on their clothing to identify them as Jewish” (Radical).  The Sneetches is Seuss forming a relationship between what was the present cultural ideology. “Literature and all cultural forms are intricately intertwined. ..culture and the arts weave their way into the lived experience of a person’s everyday life. (Bressler p174)”. The discrimination of race, perhaps anti-Semitism, is how culture at the time intertwined with society further projected through literature. The book “The Sneetches generalized condemnation of race and ethnic prejudices appears tied to a fairly specific critique of class-based social inequalities” (Vaughan p16). The star bellied Sneetches have access to things that those without them do not. They have more fun playing and partaking in leisurely social activities with only those equally superior, those with stars. Individuals without stars are as a result segregated, and cannot partake in any of their favorable social festivities.


The culturally social classification that forms within the book results in those without stars to need stars reveals the need to fulfill the human desire for social acceptance. “We do need other people in order to truly be human, so it is not irrational for the Sneetches to seek acceptance or their place in the world” (Held p36). Essentially humans and Sneetches alike, are all striving for the same thing, acceptance. However changing ones physical characteristics in order to be considered equal is not exactly just or easy for anyone, human or Sneetch. The Sneetches cannot simply make stars appear so that they can be seen as the same. This then causes them to feel alienated and inadequate. They become desperate to fulfill their basic need of social acceptance.

Unfortunately people within a capitalistic society, such as America, consume in order to belong to the group due its artificial ideal that “possessing the right things and being the right kind of consumer” leads to social acceptance (Held p35). The story demonstrates this ideology by introducing McMonkey McBean to the Sneetches with his buyable solution. He possesses a machine that will allow consumers to buy stars. This can be compared to modern day consumers’ buying popular name brand clothing as a way to a signal elevated social status or equality. “Buy wearing distinctive logos wears intend to let the world know they are well-enough to afford the brand…Sneetch stars can be removed or replaced for the right price” (Vaughan p16). Once the Sneetches have purchased their stars from McBean, they accept to be socially accepted. However, they are not.

It was that ”once the plain-bellied Sneetches acquired the external symbol of privilege, the presence of “stars upon thars”, those who had been in power, the original star-bellied Sneetches, turn to McBean, who uses another machine to remove stars from their bellies and declare the elitists are Sneetches sans stars” (Vaughan p16). Eventually both parties are using McBean, throwing money at him in order to gain or lose the star that will signify their social dominance. However, as this chaotically occurs the Sneetches  all fail to notice that the only one really benefiting from this exchange is the capitalist producer McBean.


To the Sneetches, “consumption may seem to be the answer to the alienated mind that can’t find satisfaction or belonging in their work endeavors, but nothing could be further from the truth” (Held p35).  They only eventually come to the realization that consumption is not the answer, when they are all economically powerless. “The Sneetches are unified by their “shared victimization,” that is, “a complete economic destruction of Sneetch society” when McBean drives away with all of their money” (Vaughan p17).  It is only after total economic and capitalist destruction that the Sneetches are able to come to terms with one another. No one Sneetch could tell what one was an original star-belly and what one was not, since the star no longer signified economical privileged there was no longer a need for inequality.

Without capitalism, Marxist scholar Eric Fromm believes that society can terminate the problem of “normative humanism”.  Fromm believes that capitalism is based on how well it allows our essence to be manifested, or expressed. “Human beings all have needs, some of which are common among all animals…However, there are other needs that are exclusive to human beings” (Held). These needs include relatedness, transcendence, rootedness, a sense of identity and a frame of orientation and devotion. Humans, and Sneetches, need to feel as if they belong in this world and among others. Fromm notes it as it not being irrational for the Sneetches to turn to McBean to satisfy the human necessity for acceptance. He labels more so as “unfortunate that they try to achieve this through consumerism” (Held p36). It is disappointing that society needs to buy ones identity, and the story of the Sneetches exemplifies this. Although the tale may not provide its readers with a presentable way to fix this problem within society, the text does still inspire change by raising awareness to the ridiculousness that is within American society.



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