How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
by Dr. Seuss
There's no point in pretending that this is a book focused on anyone other than the Grinch, who we can safely say is one of the most well-known members of the Anti-Christmas Brigade we've come across. He might even beat out old Ebenezer Scrooge.
The Grinch also is rather prominent in the book because of that mug of his. He's always grimacing or leering at the reader, so we never forget his nasty, vindictive nature.
Though it may be obvious that he's the grumpiest of grumps, it takes a little digging to figure out what made him that way. So we ask you, why is the Grinch so, well, Grinchy?
First and foremost, this curmudgeon curmudges because of his incredible ability to hate, hate, hate. Haters gonna hate, and the Grinch is the biggest hater of them all, especially when it comes to his neighbors, the Whos, and their beloved holiday of Christmas.
And just in case you don't believe us, Seuss's italics ought to do the trick: "The Grinch hated Christmas!" (7). When he emphasizes hated, you know Seuss means business.
We assume that the Grinch starts off just kind of resenting the Whos and their celebrations. Maybe he likes things quiet, and the noisy, singing Whos are driving him batty. But we can't help but suspect that a bit part of it is, well, that he's just left out of everything. He's up there in his cave, all alone, bummed beyond belief that no one thought to invite him.
The Grinch feels like he's being singled out to suffer when the Whos partake in their delightful Christmastime activities.
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistletoe wreath. (17-20)
Whatever the case, over the 53 years that he lives in a cave above Who-ville, that seed of resentment continues to grow and grow until it bursts into a full-on tree of hatred. The situation becomes so dire that the Grinch ends up behaving like a ridiculous movie villain; he decides that he is going to steal Christmas, of all things.
Who does he think he is, anyway? Dr. Evil?
In the beginning, he might as well be. All that hatred brewing in him sets him up as a comical foot-stomping, huffing and puffing caricature of all things grumpy. He's a one-note character… at first. And it's that one-notedness that makes his change of heart at the end all the more surprising… and heartwarming.
If there's one thing that the book sets the reader up for, it's the idea that the Grinch is stubbornly set in his ways. He's been this filled with hatred for 53 years and it certainly doesn't seem like it's going away any time soon. We mean, the guy is griping over the noise and singing at Christmas even though it only comes once a year. We can't think of a more irritable character, except maybe Oscar.
But the great surprise in the story is how the Grinch is able to turn his nasty self around. At the very last moment, when it seems like all the toys and trees are about to topple over the side of Mt. Crumpit, the Grinch has a staggering epiphany. Christmas isn't so bad at all, he realizes:
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store
"Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!" (167-169)
What prompts this revelation? The gift-less Whos singing, of course. The fact that they're able to enjoy the holiday, even with all the typical trappings trashed, means Christmas ain't about the goods, it's about being good—to one another.
After he finally gets it, the Grinch hops into his sled and races back down to Who-ville to make amends. He's discovered that Christmas is not just about toys and candy and food and noise (though it's kind of about noise, if you count the singing).
With the realization that Christmas is about more than its commercial parts—that it's a holiday of love and community—the Grinch's heart grows three full sizes and he changes his whole, hateful outlook on life.