Racial Innocence in “The Story of Dr. Dolittle”

“The Story of Dr. Dolittle” was written and illustrated by Hugh Lofting. This is a story about a man who is a physician who lives in a small village.  He becomes so caught up in his love for animals that he eventually scares off his human patients for them.  His pet parrot teaches him how to talk to animals and with this gift he communicates with animals so much that he become a veterinarian.  During this story Dr. Dolittle goes on a journey with his favorite animal friends.  So far, most of the story line is innocent in as such that a child reader will be engaged mainly by fantasy elements of animals that can talk to each other and now a human being like themselves.  The part that become racial is the use of derogatory language and illustrations when referencing black people from the original book.  There are versions of the book that revised these terms and also the pictures removed.  Also another racial point in the story when Dr. Dolittle gets captured but is then helped by a Prince who requests that in exchange for his ship, Dr. Dolittle should bleach the Prince’s face white so that he can fulfill his desire to act as a European fairy tale Prince.  The entire book is not intentionally written to be racist, however these subtle references imply so.  I also find it ironic that the movie version of this story features a Black man (Eddie Murphy) acting as Dr. Dolittle.


Lofting, Hugh. The Story of Doctor Dolittle. United Kingdom: Frederick K. Stokes, 1920. Print.



One thought on “Racial Innocence in “The Story of Dr. Dolittle”

  1. I like this post. I think The Story of Doctor Doolittle is interesting. i think what you point out though is not totally an example of Racial Innocence. It’s just a moment of racism. Racial Innocence would have been if you found an updated version of the text that changed the racist language and maybe maybe changed the black people into other figures altogether. OR if you were to think about the dynamic of Doolittle wanting to teach the savage animals to talk as opposed to being content to learn to talk with them or have a respectful interspecies relationship.

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