Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss
The Big Guy
The big guy is a bigger, yellower, nakeder version of Sam. A tall, lumpy, black hat is fashion statement enough for this Grinchy grump, the diner to Sam's waiter. When he doesn't like what's on the menu, he leaves the restaurant, only to have Sam bring the restaurant to him—whether he wants it or not.
Prejudiced or Picky?
So the big guy doesn't like green eggs and ham. Why not? Because he's picky with his palette? Or—wait for it—because they're green? Not cool, Big Guy.
If we read this story as an allegory for irrational prejudice (which, by the way, we do in "Meaning"), the big guy becomes kind of a jerk. He bases his judgments on what's on the outside—the color—not what's on the inside.
But as it turns out, all the big guy has to do is try it and he's totally over his prejudice. Think you hate the taste of Brussels sprouts? We say you taste 'em with a little bacon and you might change your tune. Not a fan of musical theater? Why don't you try Avenue Q on for size and then see how you feel?
The Boring, Grumpy Grown-Up
Ugh. Enough with the no's. Some grown-ups need to learn what it's like to be a kid again. (We're looking at you, Big Guy.) For some strange reason, the big guy wants everything quiet, peaceful, and safe. Bo-ring. Green Eggs and Ham to the rescue. In a few short pages, the big guy is totally deboringized.
Sure, he says "I do not like" over and over (and over) again, but by the end of his thrilling adventure, he has a real appetite for life—and for weird-looking food. The big guy is here to remind us not to lose our sense of wonder, curiosity, and adventure.
And if we start to, hopefully there will be a little kid like Sam to help us get it back.
Of course, readers who see Sam as a crazed ham-wielding stalker see the big guy as his tortured victim. In the ears of such readers, Sam's innocent words, like "Try them! Try them!" (132) become cruel taunts.
The only problem with the victim theory is that the big guy never quite comes off as a victim. As we mention in our section on "Tone," he seems to gain confidence and energy from arguing with Sam and from the perilous adventure that accompanies the whole shebang. Even when he's underwater, he's unafraid to speak his mind: "I do not like them, Sam-I-am" (51). His face is a picture of defiance and certainty.
One other problem with the victim theory: the big guy actually talks way more than Sam. You might even say that his long-winded diatribes against the ham are far more victimizing than Sam's not-so-gentle prodding. Deep, right?
Boring, Grumpy Reader Turned Long-Winded Orator
Ever walk into the kitchen and your dad/husband/son-who-should-have-moved-out-years-ago is sitting there in his boxers and socks, pretending to understand the financial section of the paper? That's the kind of reading we don't love at Shmoop. Those readers are the type—like the big guy—who hide behind their Financial Times to avoid the probing questions of the youngsters in their lives.
Shmoop, on the other hand? Well, we're more into reading on the beach with cool drinks and bendy straws.
If you check out "Symbolism, Imagery, and Allegory," you'll see how Sam wants the big guy to read him, so to speak. Sam wants to spend time with the big guy, and he even wants to hear what he has to say. As it turns out, the big guy has a lot on his mind, and he takes full advantage of the chance to voice it.
While Sam's questionings and urgings are brief, the big guy goes on and on (and on). Here's an abbreviated version of one really long spiel of negativity:
I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox. (113-120)
You get the idea.
But why all this repetition? Why does the big guy talk so much? Well, Seuss is only working with fifty different words (see "Writing Style" for more on that), and he wants to be sure those fifty words are forever ingrained in the minds of new readers. Maybe the big guy is doing some teaching himself.