The works of Dr. Seuss have for so long accompanied children growing up, whether it be in school, at the library, or at home. For children, his books represented a land of adventure and wonderful rhyming imagery. But in our childhood years, who knew he had an underlying meaning that meant so much more? As a young adult today, I am now cognizant of Dr. Seuss’ hidden agenda and vow to implore this man’s exertions of bringing awareness to the problems America was facing not only nationally, but globally as well.
In Dr. Seuss’ book, The Butter Battle Book, he attempts to “open the eyes of the world” by using interpretation, symbolism, and rhyme scheme as an effective tool for achieving peace. In Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book, he manages to provide an entertaining story for young children while also imprinting an important lesson that can be appreciated by both kids and adults. As “out there” and silly as his stories sometimes appear to be, they all leave a lasting impression on the audience that can both mold youths to adapt to these morals, and cajole adults to reflect on their outlook of life.
In The Butter Battle Book (TBBB), Dr. Seuss is clearly portraying the social issues that were arising between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. The conflict between the Yooks (Americans) and the Zooks (Russians) seems so trivial but can easily relate to the Nuclear Arms Race that was mainly fueled by national pride and egocentricity. Dr. Seuss was just pointing out how silly the USSR and the U. S was being by comparing it to “which side of the bread the butter should be spread”. Dr. Seuss attempts to achieve peace by passively pointing out the flaws between both parties and demonstrating that neither side should have to go to such extraordinary lengths to prove themselves. However, one weakness in his book was the relaying message some readers may have took from the story. For some, it may have seemed like: when faced with a threat, weapons are the best way to retaliate. For instance, in TBBB, the Zooks and Yooks did not even attempt to peacefully work out their differences; they just immediately took to making better, faster, stronger weapons that would keep the other sleeping with one eye open.
The story also gives children a bad impression of adults because adults are the ones who are suppose to make the right decisions and ensure our safety. Yet, here they are creating bombs that will destroy not only the lives and homes of others, but perhaps even our own. One aspect of the TBBB that kept Seuss from getting his message of peace across effectively was the cliffhanger ending. The story ends with the grandfather saying, “be patient, we’ll see.
We will see…” Instead of leaving the end result up to the reader to interpret, he should have given it a realistic and proper ending that would result in the peace he wanted for the real world. If Dr. Seuss had given his personal take on how the situation should have been resolved, maybe it would have taught the world a lesson on how the conflict could have been handled. Seuss’ own story didn’t have a peaceful ending, so why was he striving for peace in the real world?
Although he was being realistic with the ending message that “there aren’t always happy endings”, the audience cannot possibly believe in his idea if he doesn’t believe in peace himself enough to come up with a peaceful resolution for the Zooks and Yooks. Another flaw of TBBB, is that it promotes violence to a young audience. Although Dr. Seuss is merely trying to give his interpretation of the Nuclear Arms Race, he is simultaneously implying that “weapons and violence” are necessary in order to maintain peace and order.
But will peace ever be achieved if nuclear threats keep being built? In order to successfully achieve peace, Dr. Seuss could have mirrored the conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States, but altered the story slightly to have a tranquil and amicable solution. Seuss’ main goal is to amend the relationship between the USSR and the U. S by pointing out that both sides will go to extravagant lengths to save-face and protect their way of life, even if it means putting their own people in danger for the sake of pride, superiority, and righteousness.
For example, in the second to last stanza, it says, “Drop this bomb on the Zooks just as fast as you can. I have ordered all Yooks to stay safe underground while the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo is around,” meaning that the Yooks themselves, know just how hazardous and on-edge the situation is getting, yet they refuse to back down. In addition, in the last stanza, old Vanltch is saying, “I’ll blow you into pork and wee beans! I’ll butter-side-up you to small smithereens! ” emphasizing just how strong his weapon was and that the Yooks hould be afraid, very afraid. It may seem as though Seuss is being a wee bit dramatic, but he is only delivering the cold, hard truth that a situation like this was happening in the real world (the Nuclear Arms Race) and that we should all take notice and try to appease it.
In the story, the nephew accompanies his grandfather to the wall in order to witness the ordeal and the grandfather even thinks it’s a good idea because this way he can “witness history in the making” although neither may live to tell the story. Dr. Seuss was delivering another symbol of how both Russia and the United States were not thinking of the safety of their own people if one country was to drop their bomb on the other.
Their only form of protection was to retaliate with their own bomb. He uses the Yooks and Zooks to represent the similarities between the USSR and the U. S. The characters are drawn to be indistinguishable from each other and even their names sound similar which only shows that they should be embracing each other’s differences instead of trying to adjust them to fit their own criteria. Although Dr. Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book did not have a definite passive ending, it still served as a instrument for achieving peace because the fierce competition and unnerving tension that he built up was enough to scare both sides. His indefinite ending posed the question, “is it worth destroying one’s home in order to prove superiority? ” It was not necessary to write an ending because he had already made his point with significant details to convince the readers of his message. The book was most likely not written as a tool of reference or to serve as a model for others to follow.
Seuss was only trying to explain the atrocities that were happening in our home country as well as in Russia in a simplistic manner that both adults and children could benefit learning from. In Seuss’ book, he often stresses the similarity between the Yooks and the Zooks and uses them to represent the similarities between the USSR and the U. S. In the illustrations, both parties seem to have similar physical traits and their towns are both filled with orange-roofed houses and purple trees.
The characters are purposely drawn to be indistinguishable from each other and even their names sound similar which only shows that they should be embracing each other’s differences instead of trying to adjust them to fit their own criteria. The author did this to demonstrate that the only thing that differentiates the Yooks from the Zooks is their buttering preferences and the wall that divides them. All in all, petty and silly differences that reflect Seuss’ views on the conflicts between the Soviet Union and the U. S Subsequently, Dr. Seuss was able to get his point across through his interpretation of the Nuclear Arms Race in The Butter Battle Book. Although certain aspects of his story may always be controversial among critics, he was able to use his skills as a writer and illustrator to convey the message that violence is not always the best method for achieving harmonious living and the world should follow The Butter Battle Book as a tool for reflecting upon their ideas before they perform them. Another important aspect of his story is not to let pride get in the way of public safety and the overall welfare of the world.
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