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Yertle the Turtle can be seen to represent any political ruler that uses power as a reflection of personal vanity. Dr. Seuss' story is a political symbol to remind the reader that the desire to use political gain at the cost of those who are enslaved can only have disastrous results. At some point, the people will "burp" causing a massive fragmentation of political power. Yertle the Turtle can be seen to represent political rulers that failed to acknowledge or respect the people over whom they have dominion. One can plug any monarchical example that has been overthrown or any other political regime that could not withstand the political rumblings of the people. The recent Arab Spring developments in nations like Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya are representative of this. In these settings, political leaders were acting like Yertle, standing on the backs of more and more turtles like Mack. Consider Dr. Seuss' own words in this domain:
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped! And his burp shook the throne of the king!
The fact that Dr. Seuss describes Mack, as "that plain little turtle," is reflective of how political leaders who dismiss their subjects as "little" or something diminuitive that can be easily overcome or manipulates set themselves up for failure for "plain little things" can be done to change the balance of power. This is seen in the closing of the story:
And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.
This becomes the end message of the story and how leaders like Yertle the Turtle, just as been demonstrated throughout history, must fully acknowledge and understand that they are the servants of the will of the people and not the other way around. In this, Yertle represents much in way of rulers that fail to understand that popular sovereignty and the consent of the governed are the most important elements in the calculus of political rule and authenticity.
a political leader
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