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Review: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
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Review: 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 poetryin which the author re-examines the dynamic rhyming schemes andbold imagery of some of his earlier works, most notably GreenEggs and Ham, If I Ran the Zoo, and Why Can't I Shower WithMommy? In this novel, Theodore Geisel, writing under thepseudonym Dr. Seuss, pays homage to the great Dr. Sigmund Freudin a nightmarish fantasy of a renegade feline helping two youngchildren understand their own frustrated sexuality.The story opens with two youngsters, a brother and a sister,abandoned by their mother, staring mournfully through thewindow of their single-family dwelling. In the foreground, alarge tree/phallic symbol dances wildly in the wind, tauntingthe children and encouraging them to succumb to the sexualyearnings they undoubtedly feel for each other. Even to themost unlearned reader, the blatant references to theincestuous relationship the two share set the tone for Seuss'sprobing examination of the satisfaction of primitive needs.The Cat proceeds to charm the wary youths into engaging inwhat he so innocently refers to as "tricks." At this point,the fish, an obvious Christ figure who represents theprevailing Christian morality, attempts to warn the children,and thus, in effect, warns all of humanity of the dangersassociated with the unleashing of the primal urges. Inresponse to this, the cat proceeds to balance the aquaticnaysayer on the end of his umbrella, essentially saying,"Down with morality; down with God!"After poohpoohing the righteous rantings of the waterloggedChrist figure, the Cat begins to juggle several icons ofWestern culture, most notably two books, representing the Oldand New Testaments, and a saucer of lactal fluid, an ironicreference to maternal loss the two children experienced whentheir mother abandoned them "for the afternoon." Our heroicId adds to this bold gesture a rake and a toy man, and thuscompletes the Oedipal triangle.Later in the novel, Seuss introduces the proverbial Pandora'sbox, a large red crate out of which the Id releases Thing One,or Freud's concept of Ego, the division of the psyche thatserves as the conscious mediator between the person andreality, and Thing Two, the Superego which functions to rewardand punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience,and guilt. Referring to this box, the Cat says, "Now look atthis trick. Take a look!" In this, Dr. Seuss uses thechildren as a brilliant metaphor for the reader, and asks thereader to re-examine his own inner self. The children, unable to control the Id, Ego, and Superegoallow these creatures to run free and mess up the house, ormore symbolically, control their lives. This rampagecontinues until the fish, or Christ symbol, warns that themother is returning to reinstate the Oedipal triangle thatexisted before her abandonment of the children. At thispoint, Seuss introduces a many-armed cleaning device whichrepresents the psychoanalytic couch, which proceeds to putthe two youngsters' lives back in order.With powerful simplicity, clarity, and drama, Seuss reducesFreud's concepts on the dynamics of the human psyche to aneasily understood gesture. Mr. Seuss' poetry and choice ofwords is equally impressive and serves as a splendidcounterpart to his bold symbolism. In all, his writing styleis quick and fluid, making The Cat in the Hat impossible toput down. While this novel is 61 pages in length, and onecan read it in five minutes or less, it is not until aftermultiple readings that the genius of this modern day masterbecomes apparent.
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