Hunches in Bunches
by Dr. Seuss
A Bunch of Hunches
This boy has more Hunches than a certain cat has objects in his hat, so it's no wonder they befuddle him so. But how do we discuss such varied and crazy bunch of creatures? One of these guys is a Happy Hunch, another is a Very Odd Hunch, one's a Down Hunch, and still others don't have names. If only there were a word that could sum up the anarchy and insanity of these mental beasties. You know, a large, academic word, where one stares at the breadth and majesty of its many syllables in terror and awe.
Oh, wait, there is: psychomachia.
Good question. Psychomachia literally means "conflict of the soul." The word comes from a late medieval allegorical poem titled, yep, The Psychomachia. The poem was written by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, and it tells the story of an apocalyptic battle between the vices and virtues of the human soul. The feature that made the poem stand out in its day was that humanity's vices and virtues were personified to be actual people. So, Chastity goes fisticuffs with Desire, and Greed scavenges the battleground for the valuables of the dead.
The shoulder angel and shoulder devil are two examples of modern psychomachia. The Emperor's New Groove, anyone?
See Where We're Going with This?
Yep, the Hunches are a Seuss brand of psychomachia. But unlike the shoulder angel and devil, Seuss's Hunches come in a greater variety than just good and evil. And unlike Clemen's original psychomachia, the Hunches are more whimsical and zany than fight-to-the-death serious.
These Seuss psychomachia come with hats shaped like hands*, and these head accessories really deliver us the essence of the Hunches. Like the shoulder devil and angel, the handy hats point the boy in the direction any given Hunch wants him to go. When the Happy Hunch trots on by the window, its hand hat points outside, suggesting the boy "shouldn't be in… but OUT" (6.5). The Sour Hunch wants the boy to stay and fix his bike, so its hand hat points inside the house, not out. When the Spookish Hunch wants the boy to "go four ways all at once," it has four hands pointing—well, you get the idea (15.2).
At the end of the poem, the Hunches are replaced by a multitude of identical boys. After the boy reaches his decision to follow a "Munch Hunch," his mental clones and the Hunches all disappear. Only he remains, suggesting that all these Hunches really were just manifestations of the boy's inner desires, rather than creatures existing in the world outside his head.
*Psst, down here. We have more on the hand hats in our "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section. Feel free to click on over there for further discussion.