Bartholomew and the Oobleck Meaning
What is this book really about?
Authority, What's Your Deal?
For our second stop on the Dig Deeper train (toot, toot!), let's take a closer look at this here King of ours. The man is selfish and vain (okay, we don't know if he's actually vain but he certainly seems like the type), and he doesn't care much about the people around him. They can die of the plague for all he cares, just as long as he gets what he wants. Oh, but he doesn't really know what he wants.
It's hard to read about the King and not wonder what Seuss is saying about authority. We mean, really, who gave this toddler of a man the power to rule in the first place? The people? Divine mandate? The board of directors at Burger King?
And for that matter, why does being the King make him any better than anyone else, or more deserving of whatever he wants at any given moment? Hey, we'd like a pool full of chocolate, a free around-the-world trip, and a 401(k) to make Warren Buffett grovel, but it's not like we expect our waiter to deliver any of these things to us on a silver platter. We'd settle for pewter.
See what we're getting at? Look through Dr. Seuss's body of work and it's one tale of questioning authority after the other. It shouldn't come as any surprise, either. The boy who used to be called Teddy Geisel took the pseudonym Dr. Seuss when he was caught drinking at Dartmouth, was kicked off of the school paper, and had to find roundabout paths to publication (source). This guy is not a fan of the man.
If we want to get more political (and Seuss sure did), we can say that Bartholomew represents a rebellion against imperial authority. Seusspert Jacob M. Held argues that Bartholomew shows us that "[a] courageous citizen knows when to actively resist a tyrannical regime and when to bide his time for a better opportunity" (source). Seuss sure wasn't a fan of tyrannical regimes—which were all the rage in the 1940s—and with Bartholomew, we see him standing up against them.