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The Grinch: A Christmas Character Analysis

Kyle Atwood is a published author of fiction who plays too many video games and watches too many movies to be of sound mind.

The Grinch is a worldwide icon of Christmas. In this analysis, I'll be focusing primarily on 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, given the fact that Jim Carrey's version of the character has a lot more development and human-like actions than other versions of our favorite cat-eyed grouch.


In terms of fruition, the Grinch was created by Dr. Seuss in a 1955 issue of Redbook in a poem titled The Hoobub and the Grinch. Grinch did make his book debut in 1957, however. Eventually, almost 10 years later, Grinch was given his own animated television featurette, which saw the birth of his famous song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." For the featurette, the legendary Boris Karloff voiced the narrator and the Grinch himself. Yes, the featurette is regarded as a classic.

Anyway, I'm going to go with the backstory of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) as I feel it fits Grinch's overall character (and it's my favorite interpretation of Grinch, despite all the flaws it has. The flaws add character, I suppose).

The Grinch arrived in Whoville as a baby, where he was soon adopted by two sisters. Even as a baby, Grinch showed some sadistic tendencies, given the fact that he rammed into another baby's carriage and sent them spiraling out of control. Anyway, we move forward into Grinch's elementary school years, where he is seen having a crush on a young Martha May Whovier. Augustus Maywho was the Grinch's romantic rival and bully, which is apparent when Augustus points out the fact that Grinch has a beard in elementary school. Shortly after, the Grinch made Martha a present and delivered it to her after cutting his face while shaving, where the kids began to laugh at him.

After promptly destroying the classroom and all of its Christmas items, Grinch left and isolated himself at the top of Mount Crumpit where he would spend a lot of his time leering over Whoville.


The Grinch's Character Traits

The Grinch is a direct contrast to the cheerful Whos of Whoville. He is misanthropic and genuinely mean and has a heart that is, as stated by both himself and the narrator, "two sizes too small". The worst parts of his already rotten personality are especially abundant around Christmas time. He deeply hates Christmas, especially the sounds that accompany the holiday. He also takes pride in unnecessarily cruel tasks, like when a group of Whos decides to go on a trek through his mountain and Grinch takes it upon himself to scare them. Grinch also enjoys annoying the Whos of Whoville with various pranks and other bits of mayhem.

The earliest negative emotion the Grinch probably ever had was the sense of broken trust. I'm going to get a bit technical here and point towards the moment when he is first delivered to his guardians. He is left up in a tree for hours. As an infant, children obviously need the support of their parents, especially in dire situations; but in Grinch's very first day of life, he is forgotten and left out in the cold. This is probably where his doubt of returning to Whoville comes from later on in the story, as well as making him extremely short-tempered, more notably at the schoolhouse when he is teased.

However, Grinch is not all bad at first. In the 2000 film, Cindy Lou, an innocent and cheerful child, is seen falling into a gift sorter. Grinch could have easily left her there to die, but instead saved her. When he realized that Cindy was beginning to see a nicer side of him, Grinch proceeds to wrap her in gift wrap and leave her alone until her father frees her. With this, I notice that Grinch knows the importance of life, while he also holds onto the bitter feelings he has had for years. Essentially he is a type of character who lives by "look what you've made me" instead of being inherently evil.

He is not an open person and dislikes anyone who is. This further driven home with the various keep out signs he has posted all over his mountain. Even when he meets Cindy Lou for the first time, he tries to scare her away and make her dislike him like everyone else. This, of course, backfires given Cindy Lou's kindness. Still, Grinch does his best to remain isolated and goes out of his way to ignore festival invites. He's even kind of mean to his loyal dog Max, while at the same time admiring the dog and getting rather excited whenever the dog does something closer to the Grinch's own character.

Grinch is also not conscientious either. Going back to the 2000 film, we see within the Grinch's cave and find that he is a messy individual; this is probably due to his isolation and the lack of company he has had. He doesn't care about the fragments of glass littering his chest while he eats a bottle or the rotting food all over his table. This is even apparent near the end of the film when he apparently has a change of heart (see what I did there?) and the sled containing all of the various Christmas items he stole from the Whos, slips away from him.

He eventually saves the presents and returns to Whoville to return them all. While he has notably become more positive, he still keeps some of that stand-offish attitude he's famous for, but is able to keep it in sync with the rest of the Whos' moods. For the first time in his life, he feels genuinely happy.

Conclusion: The Meaning Behind the Grinch's Character

From what I've learned about this Grinch writing this character analysis is that he is a character dominated by his ego. At the start of the story, his ego is immensely negative and by the end of the story, his ego is positive. All of the actions he partakes in are dominated by his emotions, whether it be the profound sense of betrayal he feels from all of the bad things he has had happened to him in his life or the sudden realization that Christmas is more than just a materialistic holiday, that it's about joy, friends, and family.

The Grinch was a truly interesting subject to analyze. He both hated and loved the Whos and Christmas. He wanted to be alone, yet also wanted to be a part of something bigger. Despite his trauma and obvious depression, the Grinch eventually found a place in Whoville where he belongs.