Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Green Eggs and Ham
Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss

Sam-I-Am

Character Analysis

What kind of critter is Sam?

Well, here's what we know about him:

  • His fur is white. Oh yeah, and he has fur.
  • He wears a bright yellow outfit that looks like it was purchased in Bedrock.
  • He has a red hat, a la Seven Dwarves. 
  • He loves riding stuff (animals, cars, trains, you name it) and is down for any kind of fun or adventure.

Bottom line: who cares what kind of critter he is? Sam brings the party wherever he goes. Actually, Sam is the party.

How does he afford this life of extravagance and adventure? Well, in his spare time, he's a waiter. The most persistent, annoying waiter ever. There is only one thing on his menu and you aren't allowed to leave the restaurant until you "Eat them! Eat them!" (52). Lucky for us, Dr. Seuss is the one who whipped up the green eggs and ham that we're being served.

The Little Kid Inside All of Sam

Sam is that super-curious, super-energetic little kid who's always teetering on the edge of danger, driving his caretakers crazy with hijinks and shenanigans—and of course, questions. That means our precious Sam will probably exacerbate any such question asking tendencies in your own youngsters. Consider yourself warned.

Unlike most kids who love to why-why-why their way through the world, Sam's favorite words are "will," "would," and "could." Here's a typical Samian sentence:

Would you? Could you?
In a car?
(52-53)

In addition to being a relentless interrogator, Sam—again, in typical kid fashion—is a serial exclaimer and a notorious bosser:

Eat them! Eat them!
Here they are.
(52-53)

Sam's excitement is contagious. When he exclaims, "A train! A train!"/ A train! A train!" (71-74), we are totally on board. We mean, come on, what's more exciting than a train? A train! A train!

"Uncle-Sam-I-Am"

A story about an entrepreneurial guy giving a hard sell to a buyer? How's that for true Americana? Check out our section on "Meaning" for more about how Green Eggs and Ham has made its way into the salesmanship world. And decide for yourself: is Sam really the greatest salesman ever?

Stalk, Much?

Speaking of true Americana, is it possible that Sam is a stalker?

Sam is the obligatory child protagonist of a book for young kids, but grown-ups and big kids alike love seeing him as a creepy stalker, a pusher of dangerous food and an even more dangerous lifestyle. (This would be the appropriate place to insert any dirty Green Eggs and Ham jokes you need to get off your chest.)

Let's put it this way: if this were a story about people, rather than a mysterious species of fuzzy creature, Sam and his motley crew would likely be facing some charges. In the real world, what Sam does is called kidnapping. Ever heard of it?

And there Seuss goes again, including dark, adult, and totally ambiguous ideas into a kids' story. The magic formula of most every successful cartoon venture, right?

Fun Instructor

We're pretty sure Sam was personally trained in fun-instruction by the Cat in the Hat. We wouldn't be at all surprised to find him hanging out with Thing One and Thing Two, arch-mischief-makers. For a second there, Sam even appears in a red box, kind of like the big red FUN-IN-A-BOX that contains the Things.

Some people think otherwise, though. Seussologist Jacob M. Held harshly questions Sam's motivation for relentlessly stalking the big guy with green eggs and ham:

[…] who is this Sam-I-Am and why should he care whether [the big guy] tries this meal that looks like it has gone over? […] Has Sam taken out an insurance policy on [him]? Double indemnity for death by food poisoning? (Source.)

Ouch, Mr. Held. We like to think that Sam is just having fun. And if we think of him as a Cat in the Hat type-guy, questions of motivation fly out the window. The only motivation is fun itself, and the weird food is simply a device Sam uses to get this big ball of fun rolling.

Dr. Sam to the Rescue

We were just hanging out, perusing some medical journals, when we came across an article called "The Green Eggs and Ham Phenomena". Put in normal human terms, this is some controversial stuff having to do with life support systems. What matters for us is that the smart person behind this article sees Sam as a doctor and the big guy as his patient.

And you know what? The more we look at the pictures of the big guy before Sam kidnaps him, the more convinced we are that he could be ill. He looks pale, sickly, downcast, droopy, and maybe even depressed. By the end of the story, the big guy seems to be in a state of optimum health, thanks to Sam's strange medicine.

Sam the hero? It might just be.

Next Page: The Big Guy
Previous Page: Summary

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