Rhetorical Strategies Used in Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

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  • Author
  • Audience
  • Text
  • Conclusion

Green Eggs and Ham is about a furry creature named Sam-I-Am who tries to convince the no-named narrator to try green eggs and ham. Throughout the book, Sam-I-Am suggests different places and locations the narrator should eat the green eggs and ham. After consistently being pestered, the no-named narrator finally tried the food to get Sam-I-Am to leave him alone. Although the unnamed narrator does not find green eggs and ham physically appetizing, Dr. Suess illustrates the idea that you should “never judge a book by its cover” and the narrator finds the strange-looking food to be the most delicious thing he has ever eaten.

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Theodor Seuss Geisel adopted the name ‘Dr. Seuss’ awhile he was completing his undergraduate at Dartmouth College and as a graduate at Lincoln College in Oxford. In 1977, Dr. Seuss began his career as a cartoonist and illustrator for publications that we are still familiar with today, including Vanity Fair and LIFE. Over Geisel’s career, he published 60 children’s books and won many awards for his work. These awards included, three Emmy’s, three Grammy’s, the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, and an Academy Award. Green Eggs and Ham, however, was based on a bet with Bennett Cerf, who was the co-founder of Random House, that Dr. Seuss couldn’t write a book with fifty or fewer words. Theodore Geisel won the bet winning the bet by using precisely fifty peculiar words. Bennett Cerf never paid the fifty-dollar bet but the book went on to be Geisel’s bestselling work.


In 1960, Green Eggs and Ham was first published in August. The story took a publicity hit in 1973 when the book appeared on a sing-along videocassette called Dr. Seuss on the Loose. In 2001, the book had been the fourth-best book for children. On September 29, 1991, a week after Dr. Seuss’s death, a senator named Jesse Jackson read an excerpt of the book on a popular television show called Saturday Night Live to serve as a tribute to the well-known author. A United States District Court judge named James Muirhead used Green Eggs and Ham as a reference on September 21, 2007. He did this because he received an egg in the mail that a prisoner sent because the prisoner was striking against the prison’s diet. Senator Ted Cruz read the entire book during the funding over Obamacare to obstructs progress. The audience intended for this book is young children in grade school. Parents can read it to their children who are picky eaters and are struggling to try new foods. Trying new foods can support a child’s growth and development well into their adulthood.


Throughout the book, Dr. Seuss uses many rhetorical strategies including anaphora, polysyndeton, and anadiplosis to persuade the unknown furry creature to try the discolored food. Dr. Seuss wrote the book with many patterns and repetition to engage his readers and make it easier for his audience to follow along. “I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.” This anaphora repeats the first phrase of the sentence “I do not like” in order to achieve to emphasize its creativeness.

The anadiplosis, “I am Sam, Sam I Am,” written in the first line of the book is used to bring attention to a specific thing or idea. In this case, the character Sam-I-Am is who is being brought to the audience’s attention. Towards the end of the book when the no-named creature finally tried the green eggs and ham and found that he enjoyed them, Dr. Seuss used a polysyndeton. “And I would eat them in a boat! And I would eat them with a goat. And I will eat them in the rain. And in the dark. And on a train. And in a car. And in a tree. And I will eat them with a fox. And I will eat them in a house. And I will eat them with a mouse. And I will eat them here and there.” This rhetorical strategy acts as a format device that brings a repetition of conjunctions. This also acts as an emphasis tool to draw attention to all the places the un-named character would eat the green eggs and ham.

The last rhetorical strategy Dr. Seuss used was an anaphora. “I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.” The phrase, “I do not like,” at the beginning at each clause is used to appeal to the emotions of the audience and to emphasize how much the un-named creature does not like the green eggs and ham no matter where he is eating them or who he is eating them with.

Aside from the rhetorical strategies Dr. Seuss used to artistically display his book; this book has symbolism throughout it. One point that can be interpreted from this children’s book is that experiencing something is necessary for establishing your judgment. For example, the un-named creature claims that once he had tried green eggs and ham, he realized that he, in fact, loved the food. A controversy that people may have regarding this statement is that people can rely on an idea by itself. It is possible not to like something even when you have not tried it. It’s possible to form judgments through reason without recourse to experience like not necessarily needing to be shot to decide that we do not want to experience being shot. Another point that people may not realize is that this book promotes anti-racism. The usual pink ham and white/yellow eggs that are green in the story displays how the color of something does not change the foundation of the object. Ex; A person is a person, no matter their skin color.


In conclusion, a person should be optimistic and try new things even if it’s out of their comfort zone. The book compares the connection between beliefs and experiences. Dr. Seuss uses many rhetorical strategies and underlying symbolism to display how you should never “judge a book by its cover.”  

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