Seuss was all about rebuilding the world through pictures. From his kid's books to his advertising career to his Academy Award winning short film, this man was no stranger to illustrations.
Easy on the eyes, The Cat in the Hat has plenty of white space on which the words can hang out. As much as the Cat has become an American icon, this book is, after all, about the words. Seuss surely knew that, and the illustrations allow the words to shine.
In terms of color, it's pretty basic stuff. In addition to black and white, we've just got red, pink, and several shades of blue. In the 1950s, red = Communism; and red, white, and blue = American. You do the math. (Seriously, do the math. We still haven't quite figured it out—check out "Meaning" for more on that.)
What can illustrations tells us that 220 words cannot? A whole lot.
Think about the scene when the Cat comes back to clean up the mess he's made. The boy tells us, "we saw him pick up/ All the things that were down./ […] And he put them away" (282-290). What he doesn't tell us is that the cat drives a big, red, seemingly motorized vehicle into the house. White-gloved hands are attached to hinged tubes, and hoses extend out of the eight holes of the vehicle. Hmmm. That changes things.
In this case, the illustrations create an entirely new world for us. And if you enjoy the kind of discussion we have in our "Meaning" section, you might be thinking, "Is Seuss satirizing fears about the increasing mechanization of society?" Our answer: who knows? But Seuss surely would have wanted you to probe all the possibilities.
In the end, The Cat's illustrations give us a V.I.P. pass to the never-ending party in Seuss's brain. And we couldn't be more excited to attend.