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Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

by Dr. Seuss
 Table of Contents

Open Spaces

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

If you haven't noticed all of the open spaces throughout the book, we haven't been looking at the same book. Seuss uses open spaces elegantly both in his illustrations and prose to examine possibility, disappointment and danger.

Take stanza 5, for instance:

It's opener there
in the wide open air. 
(5)

Now look at the illustration. How fresh and inviting, right? Sure, your child looks small within that vast landscape, but they're running ahead into gentle, warm colors and a neat, ordered world. With such a palette, it's hard to imagine filling that landscape with anything but the best experiences.

And, sure enough, in the next few pages, that possibility is triumphantly realized, first in whimsical purple elephants and then in a colorful balloon, flying over another warm and inspiring open space. Shmoop so wants to go to there.

But when things aren't going so great, those open spaces seem downright sinister. Just check out the illustration for stanza 17:

You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, to a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
(17)

Those dark colors seem to promise the coming of a dark night. And just look at those weird arcs. They look like claws, ready to tear your child apart. No one wonder they're hightailing it.

Contrast this again with moments where things are going well and we're back to color and a chaotic whirl of things, things, things. As many things as Seuss can fit into one page, at least (we're betting he had even more things in mind).

So, it seems open spaces are actually two different symbols. Here's the key:

  • Fill open spaces with bright colors, lots of people and things, order and you get possibility and joy.
  • Fill open spaces with dark colors, emptiness, winding paths and you get drifting, feeling lost, threat and danger.

Yep, sounds about right.

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