The Butter Battle Book: Capitalist Control

Short Summary of Book: 

The Butter Battle Book, is Dr. Seuss’s way of presenting a complex situation, war, to his young audience. Dr. Seuss uses his story to show how both sides of those fighting in the Cold War were wrong. America, the capitalists, did not like Dr. Seuss’s contradicting perspective and consequently had The Butter Battle Book banned in several parts of the United States as well as parts of Canada “The Capitalists decree what beliefs are acceptable, what values are to be held and what laws are to be formed. In other words, the capitalists, not the working classes, control society’s ideology (its hegemony) and its social consciousness,” (Bressler p177).  This is why Capitalist America did not like Dr. Seuss’s interpretation that both they and the Soviets were equally wrong in their fight.  They wanted American society to be on their side and follow their hegemony, their hatred of the Soviets, so that they could have both fighters and supporters. The working class would do their capitalist bidding and possibly wipe out each other, while they sat back and watched their stubborn beliefs and values be fought for by their people.

Dr. Seuss did not like the Cold War, and thus wrote The Butter Battle Book. “I’m no anti-military, Giesel told a friend at the time, “I’m just anti-crazy” (Radical p7). Seuss was appalled by the Cold War, and equated its battle to be as silly as which side of the bread should be buttered. “His publicists promoted in after-school-special language as “probably the most important book Dr. Seuss has ever created,”” (Miller p3). “Seuss called The Butter Battle Book an echo of my days as a political cartoonist” (Miller p3). By writing the story he was able to put the fate of the Cold War in the hands of those that are actually being affected by it, the working class which includes children.

Within the story itself there are two groups of people, fighting over the proper way to butter your toast. “The battle is between the Yooks and the Zooks, who do not realize that they are more alike than different, because they live on opposite sides of a long wall…One of the main characters is a warmongering grandfather, an obvious stand-in for Ronald Reagan, the aging president who challenged the Soviet Union with a defense buildup.”(Miller p3). Seuss uses the grandfather to demonstrate to both the reader and his grandson, the “”Little Boy,” the code name for the Hiroshima bomb” (Miller p3), the truths present on both sides of the wall. By looking at the situation through the eyes of the Yooks and the Zooks, Seuss demonstrated what he saw that the “moral equivalence, the choice between freedom and totalitarianism amounted to no more than an eating preference” (Miller p3).

The Wall: Separation between the Zooks and the Yooks

The Wall: Separation



Base and Superstructure

Base and Superstructure

Capitalist Decree: Social Consciousness

Capitalist Decree: Social Consciousness

The story continues with both the Yooks and the Zooks competing with one another to “make bigger and better weapons until both sides invent a destructive bomb (the “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo”) that, if used, will kill both sides.” The tension is clearly very high at this point, and the reader is left on the edge of his seat. The book then ends with a blank page, Seuss’s creative way of handing the conflict over to the reader. The life of both the Yooks and the Zooks will rest in their hands. The blank page is strategically left for the reader to think and determine how the conflict will be resolved. Will both sides be annihilated, or will the reader be the change that saves and betters society. They have the power to decide.


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