There are two ways to interpret "Green Eggs and Ham." The first--to which I do not subscribe--was suggested to me by a colleague with small children. It is as a terrifying torture-and-kidnap story: It begins, famously, with a question, "Do you like green eggs and ham?"--and a proffered platter. In spite of its unorthodox greenness, the ham looks rather succulent. Yet the offer is refused. The Protagonist--a typical Seussian creature with furry exterior and rumpled top-hat--then retreats grumpily to his house, where Sam-I-am harasses him, confronting him first with a rodent, and then with a smug-faced fox.Hmmm...I don't know about "Green Eggs and Ham", but I have a bone to pick with Dr. Seuss on another point. I have not read a lot of his books, but I have read enough to have come to the conclusion that Dr. Seuss has definite issues with playing host to unwanted guests.
The Protagonist flees, Sam-I-am pursues him in a car, and then brings on a very forward goat, posing the question that has always amused the schoolboy in me: "Could you, would you, with a goat?" He then runs the car off the road, dumping the Protagonist (along with a bevy of innocent train passengers) into the sea. At this point, in self-defense, the victim adopts the worldview of his assailant and, Patty Hearst-like, becomes a propagandist for Sam-I-am's cause.
The "Cat in the Hat" is the sad tale of everyone's uninvited guest. If that was the only such book, that's one thing--but there was a sequel! "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" (which Dr. Seuss probably thought flowed better than the more ominous: "The Return of the Cat in the Hat"). That's two. Now you can argue that in both cases there is a happy ending, all the mess is cleaned up, and the mother is no wiser.
But how about "Thidwick The Big-Hearted Moose"! Here is your typical nice
Then, he realizes that this time of year he can shed his antlers. The antlers come free and he tosses them--with the guests--at the hunters and makes his escape as he joins his fellow moose.
A happy ending.
But then there is the last page:
There they are, the antlers on the wall with all of the guests--stuffed and mounted on the wall as trophies. And look at their eyes! (The horror! The horror!) I was honestly surprised to see the story end this way--I expected the guests in the end to come to Thidwick's rescue. I bought the book 2 years ago and when I read it to my daughter, I still end it with Thidwick rejoining his friends...without turning the last page.
After having read Varadarajan's piece, I now know I am not alone in having discerned the heart of darkness behind these books.
I may have to stick to "Curious George"--a metaphorical expose of America's capitalist exploitation of Third World Countries.
Update: Soccer Dad points out Sigmund Freud On Dr. Seuss
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