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 latest 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
The story opens with two youngsters, a brother and sister, abandoned
by their mother, staring mournfully through the window of their single-family
dwelling. In the foreground, an engorged 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 reference to the incestuous relationship
the two share sets the tone for Seuss's probing examination of the Id
(ed. - In Freudian Theory - The Id is the division of the human psyche
that is totally unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses
and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive needs.)
As the story unfolds, Seuss introduces a menacing feline character cleverly
disguesed in a stripped head covering. The Cat proceeds to charm the
wary youths into engaging in what is so innocently refered to as tricks. At
this point, a talking fish, (an obvious Christ figure representing prevailing
Christian morality), attempts to warn the children, and thus, in effect,
warn all humanity of the dangers associated with acting upon primal urges.
In response to this, The Cat proceeds to balance the aquatic naysayer
on the tip of his umbrella, essentially saying Down with morality.
Down with God!
After poohpoohing the righteous rantings of the waterlogged Christ,
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 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 representing Freud's
concept of Ego (ed. - In Freudian Theory - The Ego is the division
of the psyche that serves as the conscious mediator between the person
and reality), and Thing Two representing The Superego (ed. - In
Freudian Theory - The Superego is the division of the psyche that 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. Dr. 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.
Copyright 1989 and 1996, Joshua LeBeau and The Koala Newspaper