Many people read Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! as allegory. With its oft-repeated mantra of, “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” it’s been read as Seuss’s hat tip to post-war Japan (probably partly right). The anti-abortion movement has also embraced it (Seuss threatened to sue).
But its actual meaning, according to Seuss himself?
Remember the plot: Horton finds a clover containing a microscopic society of Whos. Horton protects the clover with his life (and at the expense of his dignity), even as countless baddies — who don’t believe the Whos exist — threaten to steal the clover and destroy it.
As the bad guys move in, Horton implores with the Mayor of Who-ville to encourage his citizens to shout as loudly as loud as they can:
“‘Don’t give up! I believe in you all!
A person’s a person, no matter how small!
And you very small persons will not have to die
If you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!'”
The Mayor frantically appeals to his people to raise their voices in what he calls their “darkest hour”:
“‘The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!’ he said.
‘We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!’”
But despite their best efforts, their shouting isn’t quite enough to be heard . . . until the smallest of Whos adds just *one more voice* to the crowd, shouting YOPP!
“And that Yopp,” writes Seuss,
“. . . That one small, extra Yopp put it over!
Finally, at last! From that speck on that clover
Their voices were heard!”
That one voice was enough to make a difference, and saved Who-ville. Without it, no one would’ve heard the Whos, and the story would have had a *very* different ending.
As Seuss said later, “’A person’s a person no matter how small,’ . . . And of course when the little boy stands up and yells ‘Yopp!’ and saves the whole place, that’s my statement about voting—everyone counts.”
Take it from Dr. Seuss, then:
Use your voice.
Add your YOPP!