Critiquing Modernity in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Abdelwahab Elmessiri’s Al-Amira wa Al-Sha'ir (The Princess and the Poet)

Document Type : Original Article


This article disrupts the materialistic paradigm disseminated by modern Western civilization through introducing samples of its subversion as represented in literature addressed to the young audience. The researcher limits herself to the analysis of two children’s stories: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957) by Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) and Al-Amira wa Al-Sha'ir (The Princess and the Poet) (2004) by Abdelwahab Elmessiri (1938-2008), both stories stand against the notions of consumerism, materialism, and culture industry. Dr. Seuss and Elmessiri employ children's narratives as a medium to critique modernity, a socio-cultural shift that displaces the sacred transcendental realm with an unwavering focus on scientific rationality in which materialism and consumerism are regarded as the sources of happiness. The paper adopts a comparative approach through which the similarities and differences between Dr. Seuss and Elmessiri's narratives, with reference to Alain Touraine and George Simmel's critiques of modernity, along with a consideration of Michel Foucault's conceptualization of critique. Through the characters of the Grinch and the princess, Dr. Seuss, and Elmessiri, respectively, advocate for a return to the spiritual dimensions of human existence beyond the confines of material possessions. Dr. Seuss focuses his critique on the commercialization of holidays and the adverse consequences of materialism, while emphasizing the redemptive potential of compassion and community as well as the significance of human connections, whereas Elmessiri questions the prevalence of scientific reason over the spiritual dimensions of human existence, delving into the paradigms of immanence and transcendence.