The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a children’s book about greed and destruction. The book is set in the forest of Truffula Trees. The Once-ler was riding through the country in his wagon one day and discovers the beautiful forest of Truffula Trees.
Way back in the day when the grass was still green
And the pond was still wet
And the clouds were still clean,
And the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space
One morning I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.
The forest of the Truffula Trees was very lush and full of life. The Brown Bar-ba-loots were playing in their Bar-ba-loot suits and the Humming-Fish were humming. It was a utopia, a heaven on Earth. The Once-ler was greedy though and didn’t see the natural beauty of the Truffula Trees. Instead, the Once-ler saw the trees and thought of all the money he could make by chopping them down and knitting their tufts into Thneeds. When he chopped down the first Truffula Tree the Lorax came to his office to speak for the trees. He begged the Once-ler to not chop down the Truffula Trees, but the Once-ler was convinced that his Thneeds were the things that everyone needs.
A Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!
It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove. It’s a hat.
But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that.
So the Once-ler sold his first Thneed and he was in business. Here was the chance for the Once-ler and his family to be rich so he called them all up and started a business. The Once-ler built a factory and his business was in full tilt. He chopped as many Truffula Trees as he could and kept making more and more Thneeds. He expanded and used super ax hackers that could cut down four trees at once. The Lorax came back and had more complaints for the Once-ler.
NOW thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
There’s not enough Truffula Fruit to go ’round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
Because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!
Business is business!
And business must grow
Regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.
The Once-ler did not care about the environment. As he said, Business is business. All he cared about was profits and not the beauty of the land he was destroying. With each hack of his super ax hacker he was contributing to the destruction of the Truffula Tree forest. He didn’t plant any Truffula Trees in place of the ones he cut down. He only had time to run his factory and make Thneeds. He kept making more Thneeds and making more money. Slowly all the animals that depended on the Truffula Trees for food, shelter, and fresh air had to move away from the barren wasteland that was once a beautiful and clean forest. The air was full of smog and the lakes were full of gook from the factory.
The Lorax and the Once-ler fought until the very last Truffula Tree was chopped. The Once-lers family left and so did the Lorax. Just the Once-ler and his factory were left. But the Lorax left one thing, a small pile of rocks with a word carved into them, UNLESS. So for years and years the Once-ler sat in his house on top of his factory and worried about what he had done. In his heart he felt terrible that he let his greed cause so much destruction. So one day he told his story to a boy that wandered to his house. He told the boy that the meaning of the pile of rocks that the Lorax left behind was clear to him now. Unless someone who cares a lot does something, nothing is going to get better. So he gave the boy the very last Truffula Tree seed and told him to plant it and protect it, and maybe some day there would be a forest of Truffula Trees again.
The Lorax, written in 1971 was Dr. Seuss’ personal favorite. He wrote a masterpiece about pollution- its causes and the solutions. The book was made into a television special for the CBS network, which necessitated some toning down of the criticism of big businesses in the book, in order not to offend the program’s commercial sponsors. Of all the Dr. Seuss books, The Lorax is the most strident and most thinly veiled of all the allegories, and its message, both to big businesses and young readers, is crystal clear. The Lorax is hard to describe. His appearance on the stump of the first Truffula Tree that is axed suggests that he is a nature spirit, living in the tree and liberated by the chopping. It also says that he needs a soapbox or a pulpit to get his message across. He is clearly some kind of messenger or supernatural guardian of living but defenseless things, for as he says, I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. The name calling and arguing between the Once-ler and the Lorax suggests that Dr. Seuss had very strong feelings on the issues he is discussing and the message that he is trying to convey.
The Once-ler’s goals sound like old adages and common sense. Business is business!/ And business must grow is a typical American attitude, adopted when the resources of our continent seemed limitless, and when a growth economy was the only way known to measure business success and prosperity. In opposition to the Once-ler, the Lorax points out the problems involved in the conduct of business, especially manufacturing industries-destruction of natural resources with no concern for replacing them, and pollution of the rest of the natural habitat, with the destruction of animals. The animals in the story do not die, but they do suffer: the Bar-ba-loots have crummies in their tummies, the Swomee-Swans have smog in their throats, and the Humming Fish have gunk in their gills. But the Lorax is a good guardian, sending them off before they die; though it is not clear where they will go.
Throughout the entire book you see only the Once-ler’s hands. The lack of a body for the Once-ler allows the reader to imagine what a scary creature could be the cause of all this destruction. But the hands are significant for a number of other reasons. The Once-ler’s hands are always busy, always manipulating, and never simply lying idle. In the 70’s when this book was written industry and work with the hands were highly regarded by Americans. The Once-ler’s hands have disregard for everything they touch with the exception of money. It is important that the last Truffula Tree seed is placed in the boy’s hands because the Once-lers hands have only brought destruction. The job of restoring the Truffula Trees is not an easy task for the boy. The Once-ler’s name implies that he uses things only once and it also suggests that once upon a time things were better.
The degree of destruction slowly worsens and worsens throughout the book. When the Once-ler first arrives he calls it a glorious place and it evokes images of paradise. He starts of the story telling the boy, Way back in the days when the grass was still green/ and the pond was still wet/ and the clouds were still clean. By the end of the story it is a dark and deserted town where only grickle grass grows Darker shades of blue, green, and violet are the colors of the destroyed landscape; while bright yellows, pinks, and shades of green were the colors of the landscaped prior to the Once-lers arrival.
In the end, the boy is responsible for resurrection of the Truffula Tree forest. It wasn’t by chance that a boy was entrusted with saving the environment. This is a message to young readers that it is children who can save the world and make the future a better place. The boy receives the Truffula seeds and is put into action. Dr. Seuss undoubtedly hoped that kids who read the Lorax would be see this and take action on half of the environment. Planting seeds is a small gesture and it is something that children can accomplish. It stands as a simple way to restore a damaged environment. The Lorax is a role model for the reader. The Lorax shows that anyone can speak out and oppose the actions of polluters. The power and passion with which the Lorax argues indicates the tone that one should use when protesting actions that are destructive to the environment. Showing the stupidity of consumers, as they thoughtlessly purchase Thneeds tells the reader that they can refuse to buy products that are wasteful and bad for the environment. Raising awareness of pollution, and giving children some specific action to take against it is an important message. In writing the Lorax, Dr. Suess produced a masterpiece that both entertained and informed the reader. Standing against ecological destruction and raising environmental awareness are lessons that through the Lorax, Dr. Seuss teaches us all.