Doctor on the Warpath: How the Second World War Made Theodor Seuss Geisel

Open Access
Gatto, Brandon Elliott
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sanford Ray Schwartz, Thesis Supervisor
  • Janet Wynne Lyon, Honors Advisor
  • Daniel Dean Hade, Faculty Reader
  • Theodor Seuss Geisel
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Yertle the Turtle
  • Horton Hears a Who!
  • The Sneetches
  • The Butter Battle Book
  • Second World War
  • World War II
The stories of Dr. Seuss, one of the most popular and best-selling children’s authors of all time, are often associated with fantastic characters, whimsical settings, and witty rhymes. While such facets are commonplace in the world of children’s literature, the ability of Theodor Seuss Geisel to transform reality into a nonsense arena of eloquence and simplicity is perhaps what made him a symbol of American culture. Despite his popularity, however, the historical context and primary influences of the author’s memorable lessons are not critically evaluated as much as those of other genre personalities. Many of his children’s books have clear, underlying messages regarding societal affairs and humanity, but deeper connections have yet to be established between Geisel’s pedagogical themes and personal agenda. Accordingly, this thesis strives to prove that the most inherent and significant influences of Dr. Seuss derive from his experiences as a political cartoonist during the Second World War era. Having garnered little recognition before World War II, Geisel’s satirical political illustrations and subsequent war-based work helped shape him into the rousing, unparalleled children’s author that generations have come to read and remember.