The Shape of the Sneetches

Did you ever read the story of the star bellied sneetches by Dr. Seuss? It’s a lively, tongue-twisting tale about the sneetches with stars and the sneetches with “none upon thars”. The story begins where the Sneetches with “none upon thars” are being ill treated by the sneetches with stars.  The way I see it, this story has an interesting and unique shape.  With two main characters (the two types of sneetches) there are really two story lines that cross over one another.  The star bellied sneetches begin with good fortune, being the star bellied elite.  The starless have the ill fortune of being the shunned.  Once Mr. McMonkey McBean shows up with his star on and star off machines, things get interesting.  The Star-On machine makes the star-less the starred, thus lowering the status of the original star bellies.  Once the originals have their stars removed, the process starts over again and each group yo-yos between being the best and being the social outcasts. Eventually it all gets so messy they realize that stars were never all that special and they wind up accepting a bi-starred culture and they all find themselves together in the end, sharing their good fortune.


Story Shape: the Star Bellied Sneetches

When I look at the story withing the context of the 22 Rules Pixar Uses to Create Appealing Stories I thought that rule #14 was most applicable to the sneetches story:

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

The story of the sneetches carries the underlying theme of, “underneath our stars skin, we’re really just the same”.  I feel certain that as Dr. Seuss wrote this story he wanted to entertain children, but also teach them to be kind to others no matter what they look like on the outside – a really important lesson for children to learn.

Now let’s look at the story in another way, through the lens of the “Story Spine”.  The story of the sneetches falls neatly into this formulaic approach to storytelling.

Once upon a time there were star bellied sneetches and starless sneetches who played on the beaches.

Every day, the star bellied sneetches snubbed the starless sneetches.

But one day, Mr. McMonkey McBean showed up, promising to cure the woes of the starless by sending them through his star-on machine.

Because of that, the starless sneetches now had stars on their bellies.

Because of that, the star bellied sneetches couldn’t tell themselves apart from the other sneetches.

Because of that, the star bellied sneetches went through McBean’s star-off machine.  Then the other sneetches followed.  Then it was stars on, then it was stars off….

Until finally, the sneetches were so mixed up they didn’t know who was who or what was what.

And ever since then, they never worried about stars again.



6 thoughts on “The Shape of the Sneetches

  1. Pingback: Week 1 Summary | bcodelson

  2. That’s an interesting analysis to have two curves out of phase with each other, so that they fortunes are tied to doing the opposite of the other. Is there meaning that the amplitude or amount of good/bad fortune decreases with time?

    For the meaning of the story, what I like to call the “so what” what is our real life equivalent of a star making/removing machine for dealing with the things we do not have we wish we did (or opposite).

    Very good work on this thinking, and writing about it. I do want to see in future work, that you add hyperlinks to relevant content (like information about The Sneetches book for people (like me) who do not know the story well or may want more info.

    Likewise, you should link to the references for the pixar 22 rules and the story spine, since a reader may not have read the assignment, and may not know what you are referring to. Each blog post should be able to stand on tis own without a reader having to have seen the assignment for this week.

    All in all a good start for week 1

    • Thanks for your feedback. I’ll use this advice when creating my posts this week.

      Also – in regards to your question about the amplitude of good/ill fortune decreasing over time – yes, that was intentional. As the story goes on and the sneetches are going in and out of the machines having/not having stars becomes less and less linked to status until ultimately they don’t matter at all.

  3. I enjoyed your post here. Was inspired by the sneetches and made a visual example of the story spine technique with a video from another open participant. Here is the link if you want to see: Might you think of a human-friendly alias we could use to call you? I notice I find it hard to connect to people without a name/face. It has been interesting to notice that as GMU blogs start coming in. Reflecting on that.

    • Very cool! Thanks for sharing. Actually, B. Codelson (Code – eL – son) is kind of a nick name for me although I’m sure it doesn’t come across that well as text. For most of us GMU students, it’s our first time creating a blog and an online “persona” so it doesn’t come naturally. I have trouble coming up with names + titles that aren’t super cheesy! At any rate, I appreciate your comments and look forward to interacting with you throughout the course.

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