Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Truffula Trees, The Lifted Lorax and The Creative Style

Hillary Lahr

            Dr. Seuss has filled the imagination of children and adults alike for years. His books are filled with characters both familiar and strange and his settings are always filled with new wonders. But how did he execute his stories in a way that made them accessible and engaging for people of so many different ages and abilities? This paper attempts to answer this question. Dr. Seuss was writing for an audience of children, but the ideas and concepts he presented were so out of this world that is was important that he maintain the readers attention and enhance their ability to understand his world. In analyzing his book The Lorax, I found that he relied heavily on the repetition of sounds and the changing of spelling, all aspects of the creative style, in order to execute his ideas properly.
            The repetition of sounds was an important tool that Dr. Seuss used. The Lorax was filled with alliteration, assonance, consonance and onomatopoeia. I will begin by looking closely at alliteration and how he used this to his benefit. "At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows... is the street of the Lifted Lorax." Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of successive words. I have highlighted the examples here: Grickle-grass grows, smells slow-and-sour, and the Lifted Lorax are all examples of alliteration. Dr. Seuss often used alliteration to bring attention to ideas or names that pertained to unreal things. Grickle-grass, for example, is not a real type of grass, but a kind he made up. the repetition of consonant sounds calls the readers attention so that the fairy-tale like nature of his writing will begin to take effect. The reader will become aware that they must envision this Grickle-grass because it's different from what they would normally see. We see alliteration used most frequently in Dr. Seuss' work when he names characters or species. We see the "Lifted Lorax" in the example above, and in the rest of the book alliteration will appear in the names of the "Swamee-Swans," the "Brown Bar-ba-loots," and the "Truffula Trees." The repetitions of sounds are used to help the reader remember these names in the event that they are referred to again. Assonance is another way in which the repetition of sounds is seen in The Lorax. Assonance is a sequence of words in which the same vowel sounds are stressed. "So I quickly invented my Super-axe-hacker which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker." Assonance is used for the same reasons as alliteration, that is, to bring attention to something that is strange or unfamiliar and to make it familiar. Yet another way to bring attention to the unfamiliar is by using consonance, or by repeating consonant sounds at the end of stressed syllables. And example of this is, "You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed."
            Another important reason for the repeating of similar sounds in Dr. Seuss is to create pictures of things through the way that they sound. Because the settings and characters in Dr. Seuss are so strange to the reader, he had to create a picture of what he was describing by using sounds that would trigger ideas and provide a foundation on which the reader can build this new world. All the strategies mentioned above help to achieve this, but one additional way is through the use of onomatopoeia, or a word that imitates the sound that it names. For example, when Dr. Seuss is attempting to describe the Once-ler and his "Whisper-ma-phone," he says, " SLUPP! Down slupps the whisper-ma-phone to your ear..." the use of the word "slupp" to describe the sound that is created when the whisper-ma-phone slides down to where you would be standing helps the reader visualize what thing would make that kind of noise.
            Dr. Seuss often changes the spelling of words in ways that would not make sense in the "real world." He adds on to words or takes away from them in order to further create a new world for the reader. Even the way that the narrator talks is strange and unfamiliar, which puts the reader into a deeper state of the unfamiliar and allows them to be open to new ideas. However, in order to maintain clarity he cannot simply make up a new language and hope that people understand, instead he makes simple and subtle changes that seem to flow within the text and that only seem strange when put into a different context or form of writing. For example, he writes, "And, for your information, you Lorax, I'm figgering on biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering..." The words that are changed in this example are "figure" and bigger," and this is clear to the reader, but by adding something as simple as "ing" to each, the reader is made to feel as though they are part of a different world.
            In a legal document or a formal letter of recommendation, the tactics employed by Dr. Seuss would not be viewed as acceptable, but in the context of a children's world, or the world of imaginary things, Dr. Seuss has emerged triumphant. He tunes into the ability of a child to think and understand through their senses: specifically through sound. Although each book is filled with colorful pictures, I believe that even with only the text a reader would be able to immerse themselves within the forest of Truffula Trees.


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