I have been a big fan of Dr. Seuss ever since I was introduced to his wonderful writings when I was a child.

In honor of Theodore Seuss Geisel’s birthday (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) , I have decided to post one of my favourite Dr. Seuss morality tales, and that is “The Sneetches”. The Sneetch story is similar to another allegorical tale I read as a child:  Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, by George Schuyler, published in 1931. A satire on American racial relations, it too told a tale of race as an obsession and a commodity to be profited from.

(I will do a review on Black No More. As a novel, it is not well-known and also is a morality tale that gives a message on the futility of racism and race obsession.)

Written and published in 1961, the Sneetch story centers around two groups of Sneetches—those with stars on their bellies, and those without.

The story addresses prejudice, inferior job/social/economic opportunities, class warfare, shyster huckesterism, fear and contempt of the unknown, the desire to be like those of the dominant status quo,  who have more and are privileged because of their class, race or gender. “You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all,” Dr. Seuss wrote. But there was no room for plain-bellied sneetches to play and have the best things, to have healthy, productive and rewarding lives. That was left to the “ones with stars upon thars.” The desire to be like those in power, and the attempt to do anything to be like those in power even if it means tearing yourself to pieces—physically and psychologically. Not to mention those who prey upon differences, exploiting various group’s fears and hatreds of each other, and as a result need no help in dividing and conquering groups who have differences, all the while making profits off of prejudices and intolerance.

Are you a star-bellied Sneetch, or, are you one of the Sneetches who “have no stars upon thars”?

In a nation that still is a long way from equality and fairness for all, here is the story of the Sneetches and how their response toward difference nearly destroyed them all.

In the end, the starred and starless Sneetches realize that their differences should not divide them and that whether a star was on their belly or not, it was pointless and destructive to concentrate on the outer image. Cooperation and building a better community for all became the real aim for:  “The Sneetches got really quite smart on that day. That day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether they had one, or not, upon thars.”


The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss (from The Sneetches and Other Stories, )

Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.” With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort “We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!” And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking, They’d hike right on past them without even talking.

When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball, Could a Plain Belly get in the game? Not at all. You only could play if your bellies had stars And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.

When the Star Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts, They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches. They kept them away. Never let them come near. And that’s how they treated them year after year.

Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches Were moping and doping alone on the beaches, Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars, A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends”, he announced in a voice clear and clean, “My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean. And I’ve heard of Your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy. But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.

I’ve come here to help you. I have what you need. And my prices are low. And I work with great speed. And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean Put together a very peculiar machine. And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch? My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!” So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared. And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked. And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked! When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars! They actually did. They had stars upon thars!

Then they yelled at the ones who had stars at the start, “We’re still the best Sneetches and they are the worst. But now, how in the world will we know”, they all frowned, “If which kind is what, or the other way round?”

Then up came McBean with a very sly wink. And he said, “Things are not quite as bad as you think. So you don’t know who’s who. That is perfectly true. But come with me, friends. Do you know what I’ll do? I’ll make you, again, the best Sneetches on the beaches. And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”

“Belly stars are no longer in style”, said McBean. “What you need is a trip through my Star-Off Machine. This wondrous contraption will take OFF your stars so you won’t look like Sneetches that have them on thars.” And that handy machine working very precisely Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.

Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about. And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout, “We know who is who! Now there Isn’t a doubt. The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!”

Then, of course, those with stars got all frightfully mad. To be wearing a star was frightfully bad. Then, of course, old Sylvester McMonkey McBean invited THEM into his Star-Off Machine.

Then, of course from THEN on, as you probably guess, Things really got into a horrible mess.

All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches, The Fix-It-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches. Off again! On again! In again! Out again! Through the machines they raced round and about again,

Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money. They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one Was what one or what one was who.

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent, The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went. And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach, “They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!”

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say. That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day. The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.

And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether They had one, or not, upon thars.


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