Editor’s Note:Gabrielle Vandergragt, attends Bishop Smith High School in Pembroke, Ont., finished second in the 2019-2020 Fr. Ted Essay Scholarship. This is her essay.
Did you hear he heard a Who? Who heard a Who, you ask? Well, Horton did! Horton heard a Who when the Whos of Whoville were wafting in the wind.
Horton Hears a Whois timeless. lt’s classic. lt’s simply and profoundly pro-life and nails down several key points about the pro-life community, in addition to being hilarious and a fun adventure. Dr. Seuss didn’t need to layer his story in allegories and allusions to make readers and viewers think. The movie reflected the pro-life movement beautifully, in three ways. The main character, Horton, embodies the true spirit of the movement and its individuals. The plot itself is a journey of hardship, chaos, very real physical danger, and simple parallels. And the reactions of the movie’s antagonists at the end are so well-done as they realize the atrocity they very nearly commit is so heartbreakingly real.
Horton is an elephant. He lives in the jungle of Nool. He’s a wildly imaginative and caring elephant who teaches a class of young animals. While not always quickest to the draw, Horton more than makes up for it with his charm and caring nature. One day, Horton finds a speck floating through the air, and it happens that the speck is inhabited by millions of tiny people called Whos. Horton discovers that they are in serious danger, after having their speck dislodged from its resting place, Whoville could be destroyed if a safe place for them to rest isn’t found. Horton sees the importance of his mission. A person is a person, no matter how small, and even the tiniest speck has a deep value to the elephant. So off Horton goes, on a long, dangerous journey that earns him many enemies who think he’s gone crazy and want to stop him. Horton is the perfect example of how pro-lifers need to be in the face of adversity. Not once does he lose his temper or become angry at his adversaries, never gives up on his mission, never stops believing that what he is doing is the right thing when it would be far, far easier to just throw in the towel, give up, and say that he’s done his part. Even when he’s shoved into a cage and treated cruelly, Horton never holds any lasting animosity towards anyone. When the clover that bears the speck is dropped into a field of three million flowers, Horton picks every single one until he finally finds the clover with Whoville on it. Horton’s determination is perhaps extreme, but it reflects the value of human life: this one tiny “speck” (and in real life we could just insert “clump of cells”) is so important that the elephant risks everything to save it. We could compare this to a pro-lifer who is at risk of losing his or her job because they refuse to back down on their belief. The movie takes it a step further, because even though Horton has been persecuted, he finds it within himself to forgive his opposition.
The plot of the movie is packed with humour, wit, adventure, and profoundly simple messages. lt kicks off with the speck being launched into danger, through no fault of its own, when a seed falls from a tree and disturbs the flower the speck was resting on. The Whos, completely unaware, are sent flying through the air, putting them at great risk. lf the speck were to land on the ground and get stepped on, for example, Whoville would be destroyed and all the Whos along with it. Once again, one could take out “speck” and replace it with “clump of cells” or “fetus” and have the same story, in essence. ln both cases, innocent life is being endangered because of circumstances beyond its control. Despite the movie’s silliness and humour, viewers can notice the real threats faced by the Whos. Others keep trying to force Horton to get rid of the speck, claiming that he’s bonkers for thinking it’s worth anything. This element is reminiscent of the pressure young women sometimes feel to get an abortion when pregnancy occurs unplanned. Throughout the movie, we also see how fragile Whoville is. It responds to outside stimulation dramatically. When Horton covers the speck with his ear, the whole world is plunged into darkness. When in the sunlight or shade or cold, the weather changes drastically. The ease with which Horton can positively or negatively affect the Whos is actually quite realistic.
Carrying on the thread of the plot, the most poignant thing about the whole movie comes at the very end. All the animals that have opposed Horton’s mission finally hear the Whos. Almost like a pro-choicer listening to a preborn heartbeat or watching a baby move on an ultrasound, the enemies are brought low by the simple cry of the tiniest Who in Whoville. It was then they realized that Horton had been right the whole time. Life did exist on the speck, it just had no voice with which to show itself. And that is a chilling reality, that so many unborn children have every right to life and happiness but they need someone else to speak for them. But the true greatest part? The reaction. Once all the animals learn what they almost did, and realize the implications of that, they are horrified, especially the antagonist, Kangaroo. She begins to beat herself up for her behaviour, having been rude, prideful and arrogant throughout the entire film. When people in the real world understand what exactly abortion is, there is no way to support it. You don’t have to be religious to see the atrocity of murdering babies before they are even born. The animals are educated, and once they see the truth, they are forced to admit that they have been wrong. This must be a goal of the pro-life movement if it is to gain any sort of traction; educate the people enough that they can understand the reality of abortion for themselves, make it culturally abhorrent to consider abortion, and success is sure to abound. The other beautiful scene in this movie is the closing. As the credits begin to roll, the camera pans out and zooms away, revealing that the entire world Horton and the other animals live on is also a tiny speck floating through space. Every human being is just a clump of cells. lt’s all a matter of size. Horton just so happened to be a large clump while the Whos he fought for were smaller than the head of a pin’ Because at the core, that’s all a human being is. The only difference between an embryo and an adult is time.
Horton Hears A Whois a wonderful movie. From a purely entertainment perspective, it’s a goofy adventure featuring both Steve Carell and Jim Carrey, whose excellent acting make it just that much more enjoyable. lt represents the value, dignity, and importance of human life in ways that more allegorical films like The Giveror reality movies like Unplannedjust can’t. Which is not to say, of course, that those movies are not masterpieces or thought-provoking works. In fact it is quite the opposite. But Horton’s story is one even children can learn from. lt’s simple and effective. Horton is an exemplary model of the patience, compassion and fortitude required for both the greater whole of the pro-life movement, the plot is full of parallels that are beautifully executed, and the heartbreaking reality of the final scenes of the movie are quite touching and promote the value of human life. The whole movie is a wonder, summarized by its most famous quote: “A person is a person, no matter how small.”