The Lorax


The Lorax
The Lorax  
The Lorax.jpg
Author(s) Dr. Seuss
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Children's literature
Publisher Random House
Publication date 1971
Media type Print (Hardcover and paperback)
Pages 45
ISBN 0394823370
OCLC Number 183127
Dewey Decimal [E]
LC Classification PZ8.3.G276 Lo
Preceded by I Can Write—By Me, Myself
Followed by Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

The Lorax is a children's book written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. As in most Dr. Seuss works, most of the creatures mentioned are original to the book.

The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society and the danger it poses to nature, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in any of the story's illustrations or in the television special) and to the environment as the Lorax.

Contents

Plot overview

Setup

A boy (representing the reader) comes to a desolate corner of town to visit a being called the Once-ler (who is never shown throughout the book except for his arms and hands) and learns about the Lorax. After the Once-ler receives payment from the boy (consisting of 15 cents, a nail, and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail) he recounts on how he first arrived where they now stand, back then a beautiful forest of Truffula Trees, colorful woolly trees that were spread throughout the area and supported an ecosystem of fantastical creatures.

Flashback

As the Once-ler arrives in the area with his mule and cart, he takes in the sights; There are Bar-ba-Loots (resembling bears) that frolic about and eat fruit from the trees, Swomee Swans that fly through the air and sing as they go, and Humming Fish that go swimming about in the ponds and humming as they swim. But the Once-ler is only interested in the beauty of the Truffula Trees. Taking a few samples of the Truffula tree, he decides to set up shop on the spot.

Enamored by these gorgeous trees, the Once-ler chops one down and uses its foliage to knit a "Thneed", an odd-looking but versatile garment that he insists "everyone needs." A strange creature called the Lorax suddenly emerges from the stump and protests, saying that he "speaks for the trees, as the trees have no tongues," but the Once-ler ignores him and, spurred by greed and the success of his first sale, begins a huge Thneed-making business that brings in his whole family, much to the Lorax's distress.

As the Once-ler's small shop grows into a factory and new equipment is being made to keep up with the demand for more Thneeds, signs of damage to the Truffula Forest become evident to the Lorax. The Lorax first complains to the Once-ler that the Truffula trees, being chopped down, were also the food source of the Bar-ba-Loots, who are now facing a terrible food shortage and a disease called "the Crummies because of gas and no food in their tummies." To save them, the Lorax sends them off to find another food source. At first, the Once-ler only shows a little remorse, but still focuses on expanding his business.

Soon, the Once-ler's Thneed-making business has expanded tenfold and now uses delivery trucks to take out the shipments. The Lorax eventually comes back complaining to the Once-ler that the factories are belching out so much "smogulous smoke" that it is giving the Swomee Swans sore throats, leaving them unable to sing. After the Lorax sends them off, he also complains to the Once-ler about his machinery making a goo by-product called "Gluppity Glup" and "Shloppity Shlop," and how it's being dumped into the ponds where the Humming Fish live, leaving them unable to hum and forcing the Lorax to send them away too.

The Once-ler, however, still dismisses the Lorax's pleadings and goes so far as to berate the Lorax for chastising his business practices. The Lorax's complaints, however, unhappily prove to be true just as the last Truffula Tree gets chopped down. With all the trees gone, no more Thneeds can be made, so the Thneed factories close down and the Once-ler's family departs, leaving the Once-ler alone with the Lorax, who, looking back at the Once-ler sadly, picks himself up by the "seat of his pants" and floats away through a hole in the smog, leaving behind only a small pile of rocks with the word "UNLESS" inscribed into them.

The Once-ler alone remains, gazing upon the disintegrating ruins of his factories over the years and contemplating the meaning of this last message, perhaps with a sense of remorse. In the end, the Once-ler gives the boy the very last Truffula seed for him to plant and take care of, potentially regrowing the forest and resulting in the Lorax's return.

Criticism

In a retrospective critique written in the journal Nature upon the 40th anniversary of the book's publication, Emma Marris described the Lorax character as a "parody of a misanthropic ecologist". She called the book "gloomy" and doubted it was good for young children.[1] Nevertheless, she praised the book overall, and especially Seuss for understanding "the limits of gloom and doom" environmentalism.

Controversy

The Lorax has sparked notable controversy. In 1988, a small school district in California kept the book on a reading list for second graders, though some in the town claimed the book was unfair to the logging industry.[2] Terri Birkett, a member of a family-owned hardwood flooring factory, authored The Truax,[3] offering a logging-friendly perspective to an anthropomorphic tree known as the Guardbark. This book was published by NOFMA, National Wood Flooring Manufacturers' Association. Just as in The Lorax, the book consists of a disagreement between two people. The logging industry representative states that they have efficiency and re-seeding efforts. The Guardbark, a personification of the environmentalist movement much as the Once-ler is for big business, refuses to listen and lashes out. But in the end, he is convinced by the logger's arguments. However, this story was criticized for what were viewed as skewed arguments, particularly a "casual attitude toward endangered species" that answered the Guardbark's concern for them. In addition, the book's approach as a more blatant argument, rather than one worked into a storyline, was also noted.[4][5]

The line "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie" was removed more than fourteen years after the story was published after two research associates from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss about the clean-up of Lake Erie.[6] The line remains in the DVD release of the special.

On April 7, 2010, Amnesty International USA commented in their blog on the story of the book that "amazingly parallels that of the Dongria Kondh peoples of Orissa" in India, "where Vedanta Corporation is wrecking the environment of the Dongria Kondh people."[7]

Adaptations

Television special

The book was adapted as an animated musical television special produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, directed by Hawley Pratt and starring the voices of Eddie Albert and Bob Holt. It was first aired by CBS on February 14, 1972. The line about Lake Erie was spoken by one of the Humming-Fish as they marched out of the river at the foot of the Once-ler's factory. It remains in DVD releases of the show, even though the line was later removed from the book. The special also features more of an in-depth look at the problems, including the Once-ler arguing with himself about what he is doing, and at one point asking the Lorax if shutting down his factory (and putting hundreds of people out of a job) is really the answer. Many of the Lorax's arguments seem to be focused on how "progress progresses too fast", in a sense arguing that things might've been better if the Once-Ler had come to a balance with the forest and slowed down production of the Thneeds. An abridged version of the special is used in the 1994 TV movie In Search of Dr. Seuss with Kathy Najimy's reporter character hearing the Once-ler's story.

Audio books

Two audio readings have been released on CD, one narrated by Ted Danson in the United States (Listening Library, ISBN 978-0807218730) and one narrated by Rik Mayall in the United Kingdom (HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0007157051).

Musical

A musical adaptation of The Lorax was originally included in script for the Broadway musical Seussical, but was cut before the show opened. This portion of the show was presented by the Lexington Children's Theatre in Lexington, KY as a separate event.

Film

On July 28, 2009, it was announced that Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment are teaming up to produce a 3-D, CGI film based upon the book. It will be co-directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, produced by Chris Meledandri, with Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio writing the script. The film is targeted for a March 2, 2012 release, what would have been the 108th birthday of Seuss, who died at 87 in 1991.

The cast includes Danny DeVito as the Lorax, Zac Efron as Ted, Ed Helms as the Once-ler, Rob Riggle as new villain O'Hare, and Betty White as Grammy Norma, Ted's grandmother. Taylor Swift has also been cast as Audrey, Ted's romantic interest.

References

  1. ^ Marris, E. 2011. In retrospect: The Lorax. Nature. 476: 148–149. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v476/n7359/full/476148a.html
  2. ^ "California: Chopping Down Dr. Seuss". Time. October 02, 1989.
  3. ^ "Truax". Terri Birkett. National Wood Flooring Manufacturers' Association (NOFMA) Environmental Committee. (PDF).
  4. ^ http://www.pcdf.org/meadows/truax.html
  5. ^ http://www.aadl.org/node/9624
  6. ^ "Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel : a biography". Judith & Neil Morgan. Random House. 1995. ISBN 978-0679416869.
  7. ^ Acharya, Govind (2010-04-07). "They Are the Lorax, They Speak for the Trees". Amnesty International USA. http://blog.amnestyusa.org/business/they-are-the-lorax-they-speak-for-the-trees/. Retrieved 7 April 2010. 

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