More recently anti-abortion proponents have locked on to "Horton Hears a Who" as a clear argument for their side, although Wikipedia says Geisel wrote it as "an allegory for the American post-war occupation of Japan."
But what about some of Dr. Seuss' Early Reader books, do they have hidden meanings? For years I've believed that "The Cat In The Hat Comes Back" is an allegory for oil spills. This book has a theme similar to "Oobleck," but the Cat seems to rejoice in the technology used to clean up the pink bathtub ring. The fact that Geisel used to work for Standard Insurance, and probably had a twinge of conscience about that, adds to my opinion.
Which brings me to "Marvin K Mooney Will You Please Go Now?"
When my kids were young we'd read this story together, exploring all the ways for Marvin to go, as long as he did it "now." The text is simple and repetitive with only 78 unique words. A giant hand appears and repeatedly asks Marvin to go, and he finally does. On the ultimate pages, when Marvin goes, the question my kids always asked was "where did he go?"
After years of reading the book, I've had an epiphany: This book is a metaphor for death and dying.
Framing the story this way explains many things. Why do we never see that face of the hands? Why do the hands decree "The time has come, and the time is now!" Because these are the hands of god, little 'g'. God wears the wristwatch to both symbolize the time that will come to all mortals, and also to portray the impersonality of the universe... a tick-tock god.
When I read the ways Marvin can go, by skis, in a crunk car, or in a bureau drawer, I hear in my head Leonard Cohen's "Who by fire?" Even the title of the book "...will you please go now?" evokes Robert Frost's "Do not go gentle into that good night."
When I first had my insight I didn't realize "Marvin K Mooney" had already been used for another allegory: the downfall of Richard M Nixon via the Watergate scandal. After some research on the book I found that Art Buchwald had published a tweaked version of "Marvin K Mooney" in 1974 for the Washington Post. He substituted "Richard M Nixon" for "Marvin K Mooney."
The time has come.and so on.
The time has come.
The time is now.
I don't care how.
You can go by foot.
You can go by cow.
Richard M. Nixon will you please go now!
Is that the test of great art, that it reflects peoples lives and times without aging? In this case Richard M met the same fate as Marvin K, and they both went. Regardless, I'll also bring the personal memories of hours of time spent together with my kids reading this and other books. Maybe tonight we'll take a second look at Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."