Great Characters: Mr. Sneelock

After all, Mr. Sneelock is one of my friends.
He might even help out doing small odds and ends.
Doing little odd jobs, he could be of some aid…
Such as selling balloons and the pink lemonade.

If I Ran the Circus, Dr. Seuss

When I was a kid, any time we let my father choose what book to read us he would pick Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran the Circus. I find this a fun book for the list of crazy Seussian creatures and the completely unchecked quality of the narrator’s imagination (you must admit, he doesn’t think small!). Probably the most interesting element of the book, however, is the quiet Mr. Sneelock who owns the vacant lot that the narrator is imagining turning into his fabulous circus.

Mr. Sneelock is there from the first page of the book and winds throughout the narrator’s fantasies as part of many of the circus acts. Throughout, he appears in his slippers with his pipe perpetually in his mouth, and always looking blithely unconcerned about the daring deeds he is undertaking (taming large, dangerous-looking creatures; flying through the air with trapese artists suspended only by his pipe; laying under racing cars; etc.). It’s clear that the kid narrating the book has complete faith that Mr. Sneelock can do anything with his unruffled aplomb.

The more I look at Mr. Sneelock throughout the book, the more clear it is to me that this is a very patient man. He has probably seen a lot of games and heard a lot of crazy plans spun for the lot (which appears more like a small junkyard than the vacant lot the narrator describes it as). The feeling I get from the way the narrator describes him is that he is the kind of adult who doesn’t discourage the imaginary play of the kids in his neighborhood. Maybe he asks questions about their imaginary worlds, but he doesn’t dismiss or criticize them. Simply inquires and accepts.

I strongly suspect that poor Mr. Sneelock would be far less game for the crazy things the kid is planning to sign him up for than the kid assumes, though! Being patient with imaginative stories and games is not the same as being willing to wrestle a giant Grizzly-Gastly single-handedly, after all!

Why! He’ll be a Hero!
Of course he won’t mind
When he finds that he has
A big circus behind.

If I Ran the Circus, Dr. Seuss

One comment

  1. Well, I recall it differently. Whenever it was my time to read to you and I let YOU pick the book you inevitably chose what we called, “The Circus McGurkus!” We read a lot of things, but I never found another book that enabled me to convey the degree reading could be exciting to the extent “If I Ran the Circus” could. In retrospect, I think I may have now become Sneelock – a benign witness to the nuttiness surrounding me.


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