Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote the Butter Battle Book in 1984. At this time, the US was in the midst of a Cold War escalation. Since the Nixon and Ford administrations of the early 1970s, US-Soviet relations had been in a period of détente. However, soon after being elected in 1981, President Reagan took a hardline stance against Communist Soviet Union. Reagan began the deployment of missiles, such as the Pershing missiles in West Germany and initiated the famous Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), popularly known as Star Wars, in 1983. These developments perhaps influenced Geisel to present an allegory for US-Soviet relations in Butter Battle Book. Zooks and Yooks represent the Soviets and Americans during the height of cold war. Using the butter battle as a representation of US-Soviet Relations, Geisel highlights the flawed leadership of both the superpowers.
The Wall separating the Yooks and Zooks represent the divide between the Russians and Americans. Early in the book, the Grandpa says, “The Wall wasn’t so high and I could look any Zook square in the eye” As the book progresses, the Wall grew bigger and bigger, until the Yooks could no longer see the Zooks. The growing Wall serves as a metaphor for growing ideological division between the Soviets and Americans. During détente, both Soviet and American officials looked to negotiate peaceful solutions, as evident by the signing of treaties, such as SALT I and the Helsinki Accords. Upon Reagan’s escalation of the Cold War, the separation between US and Soviet officials grew, much like the wall. After the peaceful years of détente, the Soviet-US relationship had grown hostile again, as shown through the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA and Reagan’s repeated depiction of the Soviet Union as the “evil empire”. The Wall could also be interpreted as a metaphor for the Berlin Wall. Much like how the Berlin Wall divided the German people, the Wall in the book divides two groups of people who look and behave similarly.
The point of contention between the Yooks and the Zooks, the method of butter application, is a comical way of representing the ideological differences between socialist and capitalist societies. Such differences could lead to hostility, as exemplified early on in the book when the Grandpa says to the child, “You can’t trust a Zook who spreads bread underneath! … He has kinks in his soul!” The rhetoric used by Grandpa mirrors the arguments that Americans used to justify their hostility towards communists. Americans saw communism as a threat to Christianity, and often invoked similar language of godlessness and corrupted souls when describing communism. Geisel uses this similar rhetoric to further connect his book to the Cold War.
Geisel uses the Butter Battle Book to describe and criticize the arms race of the cold war era. Historically, after a war, the United States would divert fund away from the army and towards other public sectors....