What’s Up With the Ending?
Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde. Yeah, that's right, we're pulling out the big guns. We couldn't help but bite off the epigraph of All the King's Men, which he bit off from Dante. Bear with us.
In English, the line reads, "As long as hope maintains a thread of green." Just like in the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, hope doesn't rear its head in The Lorax until the very end. And because it's fun to compare Seuss to award-winning masterpieces, in both stories hope comes in the form of the potential to restore natural beauty that seems to have been permanently ruined.
The seed the Once-ler drops down to the boy is the "thread of green" that Dante and Penn Warren are talking about. The seed represents nature's amazing regenerative power, whether we are talking about forests or broken hearts. But can one seed undo the environmental catastrophe created by the Once-ler's biggering? Well, that all depends on our boy, doesn't it?
Here are the Once-ler's inspiring words to the boy (and/or to us):
"Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
May come back." (259 – 64)
Something about the look in the boy's eye tells us he'll do just that. Depending on how fast Truffula Trees grow, and how much help he gets, he could see huge change in his lifetime. What a gorgeous combination of the simple with the miraculous. Youngsters will delight in the possibility provided by the ending—that a single seed can grow a whole forest!
It's easy enough that they can actually try it themselves. If you have the time and space, help your kiddos plant something (preferably something easy and foolproof, like Sea Monkeys, which grow in water).
The Once-ler's Redemption
At the end of the story, we realize we've been reading the Once-ler's confession. He's spent the past however many years trying to figure out how things went wrong and how he can set them right. In a way, he becomes the Lorax (though the Lorax offers advice for free while the Once-ler charges).
By telling the boy his story and giving him the last Truffula seed, the Once-ler begins speaking for those creatures the Lorax spoke for before. Okay, we have no idea why the Once-ler didn't plant the seed himself. After all, he does have a green thumb (literally). But, sometimes looks can be deceiving—or ironic. Maybe he's only good at making stuff, not growing stuff. (Click over to the Once-ler's "Character Analysis" for more on this.)
In the boy, the Once-ler sees a chance to redeem himself in some way for destroying the beauty of the town and driving away the creatures who lived there. He sure has changed, huh? He even misses the Lorax!