Taking a single image from a visual gestalt (a frame from a video or film, a figure or design motif from a painting, frieze or tapestry, or a picture from a children's picturebook) can open up highly informative modes of analysis otherwise obscured by contextual placement within an overall configuration or narrative sequence. It is similarly valuable, as a way to isolate both artistic and rhetorical effects, or simply to provide clues for interpretation, to juxtapose single images not intended to be viewed together (whether these are extracted from larger sequences, such as above, or originally meant as self-contained, autonomous images, such as paintings, prints, posters and photographs).
The following images are taken from Dr. Seuss picturebooks assigned for this course. They have been arranged chronologically, beginning with Dr. Seuss's earliest published picturebook, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, and ending with The Lorax. This 34 year span (1937-1971) roughly marks the period during which Dr. Seuss was a dominant force in Anglo-American picturebooks and provides sufficient material for hypothosis and generalization. Examine these images as narrative fragments (of course, you must know the story to "complete the picture"), and, as well, as independent images that might manifest Dr. Seuss's artistic evolution and certain enduring traits identifiable as his individual style, his creativity and imagination. Consider also how the following images may serve as emblems of his recurrent cultural or philosophical concerns and his vision.
As a classroom activity, you might also consider how these images presented to children unfamiliar with the text might use them to construct their own stories. This could be an opportunity for children to get in touch with their own imagination and creative strengths while simultaneously serving as a basis for developing interpretive skills and the facility for close observation.
"And that makes a story that's
really not bad!" (single page of two)
"A Chinaman/ Who eats with sticks. . . . A big Magician Doing tricks (single page of two)
"'Nothing' I said, growing red as a beet/ But a plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.'" (single page)
The King's Stilts (New York: Random House, 1939; London: Hamish Hamilton, 1942).
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (New York: Vanguard Press, 1938; London: Oxford University Press, 1940)
Executioner befriends Bartholomew
"But the King was quicker than Wilfred (single page)
Horton Hatches the Egg (New York: Random House, 1940; London: Hamish Hamilton, 1942)
"And he sat all that night/Through
terrible storm" (single page)
"But he said as he sat in the hot noisy tent:/An elephant's faithful--one hundred per cent!" (single page of two)
McElligot's Pool (New York: Random House, 1947; London: Collins, 1975)
"If a fellow is patient he
get his wish!" (double page)
Thidwick, The Big-Hearted Moose (New York: Random House, 1948; London: Collins, 1968)
"'This bird,' murmured
Thidwick, 'is sort of a pest!'" (single page)
"Poor Thidwick sank down, with a groan, to his knees." (single page)
"Finished . . . ?/Not Thidwick!" (single page of two)
Bartholomew and the Oobleck (New York: Random House, 1949)
Horton Hears a Who! (New York: Random House, 1954)
"A very small, very small, shirker named Jo-Jo" (single page of two)
On Beyond Zebra (New York: Random House, 1955)
Humph (single page of
Floob (single page of two)
"not HE!" (single page of two)
The Cat in the Hat (New York: Random House, 1957; London: Hutchinson, 1958)
Page 1 (single page)
"Look at me. Look at me now!" (single page)
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back! (New York: Beginner Books, 1958; London: Collins, 1961)
"Come on! Kill those spots!/Kill the mess!' yelled the cats"(double page)
Green Eggs and Ham (New York: Beginner Books, 1960; London: Collins, 1962)
The Lorax (New York: Random House, 1971; London: Collins, 1972)
"Way back in the days when
the grass was still green" (single page of two)
"Where will they go? . . ./ I don't hopefully know. (single page of two)
"SO ... Catch!" (single page)
Some Questions To Consider
Consider the uses of color: how are colors used for dramatic effect? How does Dr. Seuss use color to convey gloom or cheer, excitement, discontent, serenity? (Remember that technological limitations sometimes confined Dr. Seuss to three colors.) Is he subtle or obvious?
How does Dr. Seuss place his characters within a composition to suggest character traits, or to heighten dramatic tension?
Dr. Seuss was certainly no realist! But, what kinds of devices does he use to suggest the feeling of the real world? What vocabulary of effects does he employ?
Thoreau believed that the environment represented an "inner treasure," different for different people.
What do Dr. Seuss's landscapes say about him? (Think of proportions, the person within
the landscape, and the way the environment achieves or avoids order.)