The World Historical Cat in the Hat

If you ask many people they might say that Hamlet was one of the most important, significant or influential creations in the canon–with the exception of Tolstoy who, according to The Guardian, “Thought Chekhov ‘worse than Shakespeare'” (The Guardian, 7/11/11). But there is another character who is almost as equally well-known though perhaps not accorded the world-historical significance he or it might deserve and that’s the protagonist and lead mischief maker of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. The oversized Cat with his two colorful sidekicks Thing One and Thing Two (Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern?) is a lord of misrule, a projection of his child narrator’s unconscious who reflects the emotion of Yeats’s “The Second Coming,” unleashing “mere anarchy…upon the world” simply out of the boredom reflected in the first lines of the book, which begins thusly, “The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold wet day.” Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel) published The Cat in the Hat in l957 and it’s been translated into numerous languages. The Latin edition is called Cattus Petasatus. Could the famous scene in Bunuel’s Viridiana (l961) in which the peasants have a rambunctious orgy while Viridiana and her illegitimate cousin Jorge, the parental figures are away, have been influenced by this iconic children’s book? The bump that precedes the arrival of the Cat, by the way, also recalls the ghost of Hamlet’s father who haunts Shakespeare’s play. But it’s simpler and more elemental and in the end more powerful, since the Cat eventually cleans up the mess he’s made, delighting Geisel’s main characters: Sally, her brother, the narrator, and even the fish, the voice of bourgeois values, who had been a stick in the mud from the very beginning of the tale.




{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy’s blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}



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