Let's get real—Horton is a total sweetheart. He's kind, giving, and doesn't quit fighting for those that he loves (or those that he's just met two minutes ago on a speck of dust). Wait, is this starting to sound familiar? Probably because you remember our buddy from Horton Hatches the Egg. Which, by the way, was written forty-four (44!) years before Horton Hears a Who! Go ahead and check it out. We'll wait.
Horton is that neighbor who will get your newspaper when you're out of town without you even asking. That friend you can always count on to help you move ten tons of furniture. You know the type, right? When the Whos beg Horton to protect them, he responds without hesitation.
"Of course," Horton answered. "Of course I will stick.
I'll stick by you small folks through thin and through thick!" (123-24)
Remember, he barely knows these little guys. But he's still willing to stick his neck out for them. In fact, he was willing to stick his neck out for them before he even knew if they existed. You might call it deluded, but we call it loyal.
And when the going gets hard, Horton follows that dastardly bird as it drops the clover into a field full of millions of clovers for the elephant to search through. As our main, he shows the reader that you simply cannot give up when it comes to what you believe in—even if it seems like the whole world is against you.
Did we mention Horton has a side job as a motivational speaker?
Our guy may be nice, but he's no pushover. Horton hears the Whos, and no matter what everyone else says—i.e., that he's totally out of his mind and needs to be committed to a cage—he doesn't listen. Even when the jungle animals have tied Horton up for saying ridiculous things, he doesn't give up. Instead, he calls out to the Whos to give it one more shot. That's one determined elephant.
Last but not least, we have to consider what role Horton plays in the whole historical allegory that Seuss might have been trying to present.
The elephant in the room probably represents those people (and elephants?) who were accused of communist sentiments during the Cold War, even though they were just regular ol'… non-communists. He might fight for what he believes in, but like many strikers during the Cold War, he's kind of accused of accused of radicalism. Just like those real-life people were punished for opening their mouths and speaking out, Horton is imprisoned in a cage for the things he says. Not cool, guys.