Marvin K. Mooney
Marvin K. Mooney is a short, dog-eared, um, boy in purple pajamas. At least we think those are pajamas. He is the subject of the entire poem, but he actually doesn't say a word during its entire length. Anything we can say about Marvin K. must be derived either by his body language and facial expressions, the Narrator's attitude toward him, or outside resources. We're going to have to dig deep here, people. Let's see what we can find.
What We've Got to Go on
Not much. Marvin's body language is perhaps the most telling, so what can we draw from the illustrations? When we see Marvin, he has his hands in his pockets, a frown on his face, and closed eyes. We gather that he's a bit of stubborn little tyke. Granted, in all those pictures we see of him traveling, he seems to be having the time of his life. But it's worth noting that that isn't Marvin. That's an image conjured up by the Narrator's words. The real Marvin is still standing on his rug and stubbornly refusing to leave.
So, how stubborn is he? He was offered a ride in a Zumble-Zay and turned it down. How stubborn do you think?
Then there is Marvin K.'s lack of speech. Throughout the poem, he refuses to say one word to the Narrator. Why the silent treatment? Well, we aren't really sure there is a "correct" answer to that question though there are several possibilities.
On the one hand, maybe the narrator so overwhelms Marvin K. that the boy can't get a word in edgewise. This option kind of makes you rethink their relationship, doesn't it? On the other hand, maybe it's an actions-speaks-louder-than-words scenario. Sure, Marvin could say no, but simply standing there delivers the message more powerfully. On a third hand—wherever that hand sprouted from—maybe it presents just how childish Marvin K. Mooney truly is. It's one of those hands-in-ears, la-la-la-la things kids do. Minus the la-la-las.
Of course, more possibilities than just those three exist, but each different possibility provides us with distinct readings of Marvin K. Mooney. Ultimately, it'll depending on how you read the character that'll answer the who, what, and why of the dog boy in purple pajamas.
So, Wait. What?
There is one exception to the rule of Marvin's frown. On the very last page, Marvin waves to the Narrator as he leaves with a smile on his face. But why the change?
Let's consider the final lines "The time had come. / SO… / Marvin WENT" (87-89). The change in verb tense might suggest a switch in perspective, from the pointy-hand man to Marvin K. Here, it's Marvin who decides that it's time to leave. He's happy because it's his choice.
Why did he decide to leave then and there? Who knows. What method of transportation does he choose? Beats us. But it's still an important passage because Marvin's choice brings resolution to the poem's conflict of him not wanting to go when its time. And just because it doesn't answer all of our questions doesn't mean it isn't resolution.
For more on that super-important verb tense change, click over to our "What's Up With the Ending?" section.
The American President in Purple Pajamas
As we mentioned in our "Why I Should Care?" section, Art Buchwald once suggested that Seuss had never written a political book. In response, Dr. Seuss sent Buchwald a copy of Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! with all instances of Marvin K. Mooney's name scratched out and replaced with Richard M. Nixon. Careful readers may notice that not only do both names have three words and five syllables, but the syllables maintain the same rhythmic meter.
Touché, Seuss, touché.
If we read Marvin K. Mooney as Nixon, then we have a different character to work with entirely. The stubbornness of his body language could be interpreted as a pride similar to Nixon's. How proud was Nixon? Well, they managed to write an entire movie dedicated to his pride and insecurities. Likewise, Marvin K. could have the same type of pride flowing through his veins.
Nixon is also famous for having said, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Obviously, Nixon felt he could do no wrong; or, at least, the president couldn't (and when he said that he was the president so… yeah). This could lead to further understanding why Marvin refuses to go. He won't take instructions from nobody, no how. And when Marvin decides to leave, then and only then is it time to go. It kind of adds a bit of depth to those final lines, huh?
Of course, we have to mention that Marvin K. and Nixon are not the same person. Seuss didn't create Marvin to be a carbon copy of the ex-president. What we're doing here is trying to create a reading for the somewhat obscure character of Marvin K. But due to that obscurity, you'll have to decide whether or not Marvin K. and Nixon are the same, different, or even if Nixon factors into your reading of the book at all.