Bartholomew and the Oobleck
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Oobleck is a triple threat. It can act, sing, and dance. Oh, and it's a plot device, an image, and an unbeatable symbol. Here are just some of the ways we might interpret the oobleck:
(1) We imagine oobleck to be a lot like Silly Putty, both in shape and in function. Before it gets too goopy and sticky to handle, it's a ton of fun to play with. And, more importantly, it can take any shape you want it to.
That's important, because throughout the story, oobleck takes the shape of any character it encounters, revealing them for who they are. For most adults, it reveals their incompetency. For the story's only child (Bartholomew), it reveals strength in the face of fire. Maybe the oobleck is even the physical manifestation of a child's frustration. Eh?
(2) Oobleck is also a symbol for human callousness to Mother Nature (the worst kind). All it takes is one selfish person to ruin nature for everyone. Boo on nature ruiners.
(3) Most strikingly, the oobleck seems to be a symbol for the King's egotism and folly. And the King knows it, too.
"Oh, that beautiful oobleck!" [the King cried]. "And it's mine! All mine!" (42)
While the oobleck ruins everything for everyone, all the King cares about is what belongs to him. It's no accident it's that very same thing that endangers both his power and his life in the end.
Think it goes deeper than all that? You're right. Check out our section on "Meaning" to think more about oobleck in all its air-assault glory.