The Lorax: Environmental and Individual Importance

Summary of the Book:

Trailer of the Movie Version: 

The story of The Lorax was written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, and it was considered to be one of his personal favorites (Miller p1). Within the tale, “Seuss lampooned the rapacious greed of a straw-man capitalist and celebrated the environmental activism of the littler character, who “speaks for the tress”” (Miller p1). This character referred to as little would of course be the Lorax, and his role is anything but small. This orange scruffy monster is the protector of the forest, which is symbolism for the entire world. The Lorax works hard to do his job, and takes great pride in it because he knows how important the planet is to not only him but to all of the animals that live there. The forest however gets put into jeopardy when a greedy man decides to come in and destroy it simply for his own economic gain. This action by this one individual leads to catastrophic events that eventually, kill the forest and all that once lived there, leave because it is no longer a safe for them to stay.

Overall the story is colorful and amusing, while at the same time is powerfully intimidating due to its black and unpleasant vision for the future. Seuss’s explanation for the story’s darkness in 1983 was that, “Every once in a while I get mad…The Lorax came out of my being angry” (Miller p2). Seuss’s frustration came from the constant abuse of the environment and society by selfish capitalist industries for the means of their own economic gain. Seuss turned his frustrations into an entertaining yet educational experience through his creation of The Lorax. “The ecology books I’d read were dull…In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might” (Miller p2), and they did. The story The Lorax to this day has continued to both inspire and anger those who read it due to its political and means for forceful action.

From the story itself one could easily examine the dominant Marxist messages present throughout, such as capitalists selfishly distributing property in means of production. The man in the straw-man capitalist is known as the Once-ler. “The Once-ler owns his Thneed factory. He has invested his own time, money, labor, and ingenuity into building and biggering his factory until it’s productive and profitable….His original investment paid out, and the profits he made were reinvested in his factory to bigger it and increase production in order to make more money” (Held p30). People work for the Once-ler and the Once-ler pays them, and with that pay they consume, the cycle continues. Capitalism is built on this cycle, and while this may seem normal to most, there is an alternative to it. Marxism recognizes that while production needs to occur in order for people needs to be met, things get tricky when what is produced is no longer what people need, but what can be seen as profitable (Held p30). While the thneeds produced are considered to be what everyone needs, they are not. The thneeds are materialistic objects that are advertised as something society needs to have in order to survive, but in reality they don’t.

In capitalist societies production is based not on what is needed but what can be sold. “Think Thneeds! Instead, things are produced simply to be sold, so that producers can accumulate more money, bigger their business, sell more and so on” (Held p30). While the Thneed is clearly not an object that is necessary to better human survival, the Once-ler like many big business is prepared to make you think you do so that he can make a profit. “If the Once-ler, or any capitalist, can convince, someone they “need” their product, then they’ll be able to sell it”, regardless of the consequences (Held p30). While in the movie the Once-ler sings a song as a form of advertisement, in the book there is no need for such a performance. He simply broadens consumers mind to the endless possibilities of the Thneed, such as fashion in order to get them to buy it. This is an example of capitalist influencing others to buy into their false ideology or consciousness. They become almost brainwashed to believe that the Thneed is something that they need to have in order to survive. Consequently, just as the Once-ler is willing to do whatever it takes in order to sell, consumers are willing to do whatever it takes in order to buy, allowing for the vicious cycle to continue until it is much too late.

Clips from the Movie:

Materialism: False Consciousness: 

Capitalism: 

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As a result of the Once-ler’s capitalistic greed, the forest and all who live there suffer. The forest loses all of its trees and all its inhibitors are caused to leave. While at first the Once-ler had no concern for anyone but himself, he soon realizes the detrimental damage he caused as a result of his greed. The Lorax both tried to warn the Once-ler what would happen if his mass production continued, but he wouldn’t listen. The Once-ler did not realize how important the forest really was to not only himself, but his business. Without the trees, there is no production or consumption. There is no life. The Once-ler and society lose everything. The Once-ler has to live alone with his guilt and shame for many years. He becomes old gray and very remorseful. It isn’t until the boy comes along, symbolizing future generations, that hope begins to flourish once again. The Once-ler tells the boy what he didn’t know then but knows and values now. “Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It’s not” (Radical p7).  Similar to The Butter Battle Book, this is Seuss again putting the end of the story in the power of the readers’ hands. While the book is kinder in a sense that it does not end in a blank page, the story does prompt the reader to realize that he could be that change that betters the society. Just as the boy regrows the forest by caring for a single seed, children of America can too better their world from the harm done by greed.

Clip from Movie:Power of the Individual: 

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When Seuss spoke first of its creation he did not hesitate to label it as a method of propaganda (Miller p 4). He attacks corporate greed and excessive consumerism, themes that remind many of How the Grinch Stole Christmas“(Radical p7). Unlike the Grinch however, The Lorax was not as liked among society because it went against the power of big businesses, Aka America. An example of this dislike could be seen when, “The Lorax was once banned by a California school district because of its obvious opposition to clear-cutting by the powerful logging industry” (Radical p7). The frustration with the controversial book only strengthened once it was put onto the big screen. When it was released as a movie in March, it prompted many to declare the story as “too liberal”” (Karstens-Smith p1). The Lorax despite its ratings is a powerful piece of Marxism, exposing all ages to the harm that can come from capitalism in a fun and captivating story even future generations can understand. The Lorax speaks for the trees, just as Seuss speaks for the people.

Clip from Movie: Save Society:

“Let it Grow”: 

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