Some of Dr. Seuss's most obvious symbolism is found in The Lorax, published 1971. Unlike others like The Cat in the Hat, Suess doesn't even try to make the symbolism secondary to the story; rather, the story demonstrates quite clearly the moral he meant it to.
The theme of The Lorax is the struggle between the environmental activists and the new factories. Awareness of the environment was a relatively new concept, brought about by the development of new engines. The 60's and 70's saw the first cries for the preservation of natural resources, pollution protests.
Seuss wrote The Lorax after seeing the careless treatment of the environment by factories. After getting stuck on what he felt was "propaganda with a plot" and too preachy, he went on a trip to Africa where the local shrubbery inspired his "truffala" trees. He then devised the small creature who would speak on behalf of the trees.
The wise "Lorax", the titular character, represents the activists trying to protect the planet that we have to live on. He is the spokesperson of the voiceless truffala trees', Swomee-Swans', and Bar-ba-loots' advocate. He plants seeds and cares for the plants and animals.
The young man is an ambitious inventor who just wants his creation to be something great. He allows his ambitions to overrule his conscience, which clearly tells him he's doing something wrong in chopping down the trees and polluting the Humming Fishes' pond.
He is the narrator of the story, now known as the Once-ler who is sorry for what has happened, and encourages his audience to "Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. / Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. / Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. / Then the Lorax / and all of his friends / may come back."
The Fish from The Cat in the Hat Copyright © 2010 Random House LLC
As confirmation of the book's power, the Lorax is a fictional character with real enemies. Parents in logging communities have tried to get the book removed from school libraries and reading lists. The National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association has published its own pro-logging rebuttal, Truax. Seuss's The Lorax has even made the American Library Association's annual list of challenged and banned books.
Responding to criticism of his book, Seuss said, “The Lorax doesn’t say lumbering is immoral. I live in a house made of wood and write books printed on paper. It's a book about going easy on what we've got. It's anti-pollution and anti-greed."
All illustrations are the work of the author, Theodor Seuss Geisel. Copyright © 2010 Random House LLC