Hunches in Bunches
by Dr. Seuss
Boy, the boy sure is nondescript, isn't he? This kid serves as the poem's narrator and explains all the crazy happenings going on inside his head, yet we know almost nothing about him other than that he's a boy. Even then, we only know this because the illustrations clue us in. If we only had the poem to go by, then we couldn't rightly say either way.
So the question isn't what can we say about the boy, but why can we say so little. The answer? A little something called vicariousness.*
Big Word; Amazing Results
Vicarious literally means acting as a substitute by taking the place of another person. To read vicariously means you substitute your own feelings, emotions, and actions for those of a character and participate in the story as though you were that character. In fact, the very best of story-driven art usually banks on your vicarious relationship with the characters, whether it's Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych, Rowling's Harry Potter, Spielberg's Indiana Jones, or, yes, Dr. Seuss's Hunches in Bunches.
All right, so that was a bit superfluous, but you get the idea. The boy is the reader's vicar in Hunches in Bunches. His nondescript persona makes him a type of empty shell we can easily transfer ourselves into. And he knows we can all relate to what he's feeling since he explicitly brings up this fact twice in the poem:
Everybody gets the fidgets.
Even me and even you. (1.3-4)
I was following a Nowhere Hunch,
a real dumb thing to do! […]
Everybody sometimes does it.
Even me. And even you. (18.4-5, 19.1-2)
Young or old, we all understand what it feels like to have the fidgets, to be unable to make up our minds. This shared experience allows us to connect with the boy vicariously and enjoy the book as it playfully explores this universal human dilemma.
But the vicariousness moves beyond just being unable to come to a decision. When the boy follows the Nowhere Hunch, he says it was a "real dumb thing to do" (18.5). We can't imagine a reader who wouldn't know what it's like to follow a hunch nowhere and then disapprove of himself for doing so.
Then at the end of the story, the boy fights with his many selves. And we all know what it's like to argue with ourselves in our own heads. The poem's words plus illustrations perfectly detail this mental anguish, allowing the reader to slip right into the boy's struggle (30.1-4).
So, the boy deserves a privileged place in the exclusive club of Dr. Seuss vicarious narrators. Others members include Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!, What Was I Scared Of?, and The Cat in the Hat. Don't forget to check them out and see what we mean.