Having young children means I’ve read a lot of Dr. Seuss. Rather, I’ve read a limited amount of Dr. Seuss many times over. Reading a Seuss book too many times makes you start thinking more deeply about the story than is good for you.
I’ve already shared my over-analysis of The Cat in the Hat, but so far I’ve spared you my deep thoughts about Green Eggs and Ham. That grace period is over; here I go again.
On the surface, Green Eggs and Ham captures every parent’s frustration with the reluctance of their children to try new foods. The message we hope kids are getting is that just because a food is different doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious. Though most parents would not put green meat into their own mouths, it has the potential to be a helpful message.
But considering the lengths to which Sam I Am goes to deliver this message, one must wonder if the ends justify the means.
We have no idea why Sam is so determined to have the unnamed character try green eggs and ham. He doesn’t indicate any parental relationship. Lacking that, his incessant nagging takes on the flavor of peer pressure, or worse, outright stalking. The pursuit ends only with a frightful train accident that might easily have spelled tragedy for both Sam I Am and his quarry.
Why would Sam I Am go to such lengths to persuade a character, who seems to be a mere acquaintance, to taste green eggs and ham? Try offering an oddly-colored foodstuff to a friend of a friend. When he declines, chase him around town with it and suggest rhyming pairs of common nouns whose presence might make him more amenable to your strange offering.
Sam’s peculiar persistence calls into question the nature of his goods. Is it really ham and eggs? My faith in Dr. Seuss persuades me it really is about ham and eggs, but it’s not hard to imagine it as a euphemism for something else. If I told you there was a book, published in 1960, about one guy pressuring another guy to try some freaky, new stuff, would you think of ham and eggs?
I don’t want to think that Sam was pushing something he shouldn’t have been, but why on earth would he suppose that a hunk of green ham would make for better eating in a box with a fox? Aside from the lack of dining ambiance inside a box, how would being cooped with a wild carnivore enhance anyone’s ham-eating pleasure?
Sam nearly makes sense when he asks about the possibility of his tarried acquaintance eating his ham and eggs in a house, but then he goes right back off the deep end by introducing a mouse into the equation. If he really wants to make the sale, he should quit blurting out the name of whatever creature he happens to be hallucinating about.
Only when Sam’s hectoring has brought the other character face to face with death does the latter agree to do whatever Sam asks, so long as it will get that suffocating monkey off his back. He tries green eggs and ham. His eyes light up and he professes, quite credibly, to liking the sample very much.
This resolution of the conflict is either a well-deserved triumph for focused, dedicated parents everywhere or it is a tragic loss of innocence. It depends upon how you look at it, which very likely depends upon how many times you’ve been compelled to read the book in a single evening.