Turns out the Sneetches have a few lessons to teach—in addition to not obsessing over fads.
These little guys pretty clearly reflect just how silly prejudices really are. Come on, they're just stars on tubby tummies. Why are the Star-Belly Sneetches getting so uppity with their frankfurters? We're pretty sure Dr. Seuss was going for a real-world parallel here. But which? Religious stars, racial stars, class stars? Let's think on this one.
Theory 1: Religious Stars You may remember from all your studying that throughout different periods in history—most notably, the Holocaust—Jewish people have been made to wear yellow stars on their clothing to identify themselves.
Could this be what Seuss was going for? It seems like a good fit, especially when you consider that Seuss was the victim of anti-Semitism in college (see our "Detailed Summary" for more deets on this factoid).
But wait a second. Historically, stars were meant to designate Jews as lesser citizens. The reverse is true in Sneetch society, where the Star-Bellies are clearly top dogs. Still a likely candidate, though, if not one-for-one symbolism.
Theory 2: Racial Stars Random House published "The Sneetches" in 1961. That means it hit after Rosa Parks's famous front-bus sit-in (1955) but before Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963).
That means Seuss conceived "The Sneetches" during a difficult but important time in America's struggle toward racial equality. So race seems a likely star candidate.
Theory 3: Class Stars Then again, we could go with class stars. The Star-Belly Sneetches get all the frankfurters and marshmallows they want, at the same time no less. If that doesn't say upper crust, we don't know what does. And the Plain-Belly Sneetches believe they can buy their way into the upper class by purchasing tummy stars (which brings us to the question of why they don't just go buy some hot dogs?). Class inequality has always been an issue in American history, so… another likely candidate.
So which is it?
Well, if we had to choose just one, we'd probably go with "D: All of the Above." Yeah, we cheated. But the simple fact remains that the Sneetches' stars seem to encompass prejudice in general. And the story grants an easy avenue to talk with children about all the different stars we carry around in the real world. There'll be plenty of rereads to discuss every last kind—believe us.
Oh, and don't forget to check out our "Symbols" section for more on those tubby tummy stars.