Horton Hatches the Egg
by Dr. Seuss
Horton Hatches the Egg Writing Style
Sophisticated, Accessible, Flowing, Rhymed
Dr. Seuss was probably rhyming when he was just an egg in his father's nest.
But even born-rhymers take a break now and again. And the three books he wrote before Horton were in prose (source). Yep, you read that right: prose. (Gasp!) With Horton, Seuss falls off the prose wagon and returns to rhyme.
In our not-so-humble opinion, Seuss's verses are sophisticated not only in concept (we got a biology brain freeze thinking about the elephant-bird) but in structure, too. Check out this Faulkneresque doozy:
But Mayzie, by this time, was far beyond reach,
Enjoying the sunshine way off in Palm Beach,
And having such fun, such a wonderful rest,
Decided she'd NEVER go back to her nest. (57-60)
Seven clauses in one sentence. Whew. But meter and rhyme have come to the rescue! They'll help young readers break it down pretty easily.
All Alone With Only His Chiasmus to Guide Him
Chiasmus. The latest body-building craze? No. An expensive party dip? No. That monster in your closet? Possibly. The chiasmus we're thinking of is an important element of Seuss's writing style in Horton. Check out Horton's motto:
"I meant what I said
And I said what I meant…" (70-71)
See, chiasmus is easy. All you do is take a phrase and then reverse it. As usual, Horton is talking to himself. But this one little chiasmus sustains him during this time of suffering and major boredom. You, too, can make a chiasmus to get you through the tough times. Get workin'.
Whoa, what? Don't worry, it's the meter Dr. Seuss was using for Horton—almost.
Seuss-pert Charles Cohen says it pretty tightly: "Anapestic tetrameter has four sections of three syllables" (source). Ah, we love concision.
Let's try it out with a random cool passage:
He heard the men's footsteps!
He turned with a start! (99-100)
Section 1: He heard the
Section 2: men's footsteps!
Section 3: he turned with
Section 4: a start!
You counted right. That's only eleven syllables—but close enough. This steady meter is what makes Horton flow so easily. It propels us forward from line to line, and page to page, especially if we're reading aloud (which we totally should be). The result is something comfortable and accessible. But the varied rhyme scheme gives Seuss some space for spontaneity within the strict meter. Genius, we think.