AOH :: CATINHAT.TXT|
Freudian review of Seuss' "Cat in the Hat"
_The Cat in the Hat_
by Dr. Seuss, 61 pages. Beginner Books, $3.95
The Cat in the Hat is a hard-hitting novel of prose and poetry in
which the author re-examines the dynamic rhyming schemes and bold
imagery of some of his earlier works, most notably _Green Eggs and
Ham_, _If I Ran the Zoo_, and _Why Can't I Shower With Mommy?_ In
this novel, Theodore Geisel, writing under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss,
pays homage to the great Dr. Sigmund Freud in a nightmarish fantasy
of a renegade feline helping two young children understand their
own frustrated sexuality.
The story opens with two youngsters, a brother and a sister,
abandoned by their mother, staring mournfully through the window of
their single-family dwelling. In the foreground, a large
tree/phallic symbol dances wildly in the wind, taunting the
children and encouraging them to succumb to the sexual yearnings
they undoubtedly feel for each other. Even to the most unlearned
reader, the blatant references to the incestuous relationship the
two share set the tone for Seuss' probing examination of the
satisfaction of primitive needs. The Cat proceeds to charm the wary
youths into engaging in what he so innocently refers to as
"tricks." At this point, the fish, an obvious Christ figure who
represents the prevailing Christian morality, attempts to warn the
children, and thus, in effect, warns all of humanity of the dangers
associated with the unleashing of the primal urges. In response to
this, the cat proceeds to balance the aquatic naysayer on the end
of his umbrella, essentially saying, "Down with morality; down with
After poohpoohing the righteous rantings of the waterlogged Christ
figure, the Cat begins to juggle several icons of Western culture,
most notably two books, representing the Old and New Testaments,
and a saucer of lactal fluid, an ironic reference to maternal loss
the two children experienced when their mother abandoned them "for
the afternoon." Our heroic Id adds to this bold gesture a rake and
a toy man, and thus completes the Oedipal triangle.
Later in the novel, Seuss introduces the proverbial Pandora's box,
a large red crate out of which the Id releases Thing One, or
Freud's concept of Ego, the division of the psyche that serves as
the conscious mediator between the person and reality, and Thing
Two, the Superego which functions to reward and punish through a
system of moral attitudes, conscience, and guilt. Referring to
this box, the Cat says, "Now look at this trick. Take a look!" In
this, Dr. Seuss uses the children as a brilliant metaphor for the
reader, and asks the reader to re-examine his own inner self.
The children, unable to control the Id, Ego, and Superego allow
these creatures to run free and mess up the house, or more
symbolically, control their lives. This rampage continues until
the fish, or Christ symbol, warns that the mother is returning to
reinstate the Oedipal triangle that existed before her abandonment
of the children. At this point, Seuss introduces a many-armed
cleaning device which represents the psychoanalytic couch, which
proceeds to put the two youngsters' lives back in order.
With powerful simplicity, clarity, and drama, Seuss reduces Freud's
concepts on the dynamics of the human psyche to an easily
understood gesture. Mr. Seuss' poetry and choice of words is
equally impressive and serves as a splendid counterpart to his bold
symbolism. In all, his writing style is quick and fluid, making
_The Cat in the Hat_ impossible to put down. While this novel is
61 pages in length, and one can read it in five minutes or less, it
is not until after multiple readings that the genius of this modern
day master becomes apparent.
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