Dr. Seuss is one of America’s most revered children’s authors of all time. Nevertheless, his stories aren’t just designed for adults: behind the word play and artistry, they usually contain themes of social interest with a constructed philosophy behind them. This makes his oeuvre highly respected and analyzed by critics, also. Due to his familiarity and popularity, this author is used to introduce and exemplify profound ideas, as they are found all along his works. In “The Sneetches”, this author postulates that, through capitalism, humans can overcome their differences and live in harmony.
In the beginning, the Sneetches without stars were excluded from the activities of those that did. However, the narrator dismisses the difference: “Those stars weren’t that big. They were really so small / You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all” (p. 3). This leads to the question of why the Sneetches without stars didn’t divert themselves on their own; they could have played ball, been on the beach, and had frankfurter roasts on their own, but the disdain in which the star-bellied Sneetches held them, restrained them from this. “Those with stars maintain their social domination through a process of systematic exclusion” (Mensch and Freeman 34); as we can see, social classes depend on the recognition of the other ones: the main difference that makes Sneetches with stars on the bellies better than Sneetches without them, is that both of them believe in their superiority. One could speculate that, if both of these communities believed that Sneetches without stars on their bellies were better, they would be higher in the hierarchy. Thus, we can see the downplaying of the differences from the beginning of the story, but the actual qualitative change in cohabitation happens after the introduction of Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
The shame that the Sneetches without stars feel because of their difference is utilized for profit by this character that represents capitalism. “I’ve heard you’re unhappy / But I can fix that.  I have what you need. / And my prices are low. And I work at great speed. / And my work is one hundred percent guaranteed” (p. 9). His focus on happiness, speed and guarantee, all capitalistic, are offered at low prices. These prices, however, vary, as we can see from the augmentation of three (p. 10) to ten (p. 15) in the first two offers. This ends up in confusion and bewilderment, with both classes of Sneetches being undifferentiated. “Then, when very last cent / Of the money was spent, / The Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up / and he went” (p. 22). As such, McMonkey was not interested in their happiness or their well-being, but in robbing them of all the money they possessed.
Instead of the lack of money being the apocalypse for the Sneetches, this actually unites them and allows them to coexist in harmony. The narrator manifests that “the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day” (p. 23), in opposition to the segregation that divided them before the introduction of McMonkey. The joint decision that “Sneetches are Sneetches and no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches” (p. 23) means that the differences, while recognized are tolerated. “They finally realize that the beliefs that had divided them were false and meaningless” (Rider 3). Instead of trying to obliterate the differences, which is what McMonkey offered and ended up in confusion and resentment, the more efficient solution is to actually observe the differences and respect them, without establishing a hierarchy based on it. Nevertheless, that the change came through McMonkey, and capitalism, is problematic.
As we can see from history, capitalistic imperialism, far from bringing peoples together, has torn them apart. The intention of establishing a hegemonic model has its consequences, as, by definition, it is impossible to establish differences within one. This is especially paradoxical in the end of the story: if capitalism is what allowed them to come together, what will they do now that they don’t have any money? Also, where does external group recognition, as discussed earlier, play in? Many questions set in at the end of the story; it would seem that the ideal conclusion is unsustainable, even from its own logic. The actual harmless difference between the Sneetches, whether they had stars on their bellies or not, became the support for hateful segregation, and one would have to follow the story to see if this paradise would continue.
In conclusion, “The Sneetches” is a profound story about the nature of differences between men, and a possible, if idyllic, solution through capitalism. The hateful segregation between star-bellied and non-star-bellied Sneetches is interrupted by Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who offers happiness for money. The Sneetches become bewildered, and McMonkey leaves with all their money. However, this allows all Sneetches to come together in spite of their physical differences and live together in harmony. Within the stories own logic, however, this is problematic, as there would be no recognition of differences, and are moneyless, which is the main staple of capitalism. Therefore, this leaves the attentive reader questioning himself on the eternity of this happiness. Will the Sneetches find another detail in which to focus on and beget discriminatory segregation?
Seuss, Dr. “The Sneetches”. The Sneetches and Other Stories. USA: Random House, 1989. 2-24. Print.
Rider, Benjamin. “Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The Examined, Happy Life”. Dr. Seuss and Philosophy: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! Ed. Jacob M. Held. Plymouth, United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011. 1-14. Print.
Mensch, Betty, and Alan Freeman. “Getting to Solla Sellew: The Existential Politics of Dr. Seuss”. Tikkun, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2011): 30-34 and 112-113. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.