The Sneetches and Other Stories
by Dr. Seuss
The Sneetches and Other Stories Writing Style
Fun Poetic Meter
Remember your high school English class? The one where they had you memorize the difference between an iambic and a spondaic foot? Well, rebuckle your seatbelts. We have confidence that Dr. Seuss will see us through this safe and sound.
Okay, let's do this.
The Way of the Seuss
For most of The Sneetches and Other Stories, Seuss uses what's called anapestic tetrameter. Scary sounding, we know, but let's break the bad boy down. An anapest is a poetic foot that contains two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable; all that means is that it sounds like this: dah-dah-DUM. Tetrameter just means that there are four anapests per line.
Here's an example from the good doctor himself:
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still! (Zax.27)
The strong syllable ending allows for some awesomely forceful rhymes—great for children learning to read poetry who always want to emphasize the rhyme. Also, the effect on the whole line is kind of wavy; it just rolls off the tongue like a song.
Yes, there's always an exception. In The Sneetches and Other Stories, it's "What Was I Scared Of?" For this poetic tale, Seuss went with trochaic tetrameter. Okay, so we know what a tetrameter is from the example before. But what does trochaic mean?
A trochee is a poetic foot that has one stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable: that's DUM-dah. Example time:
In a dark and gloomy Snide-field (Scared.56)
Now on to the big question: why bother? With a trochee, the stress comes first, giving the whole thing a sense of urgency. This is especially true when read aloud since the first word of each line will kind of boom out of you. "What Was I Scared Of?" is a story about fear, so that booming meter will help heighten the dread a bit. Sound familiar? We thought it might.
By getting the general feel of anapestic tetrameter, your rendition of "The Sneetches" will have the sing-song quality needed to make the poem more festive and fun. Likewise, understanding how a trochee works—but not harping on it—will give "What Was I Scared Of?" an underlying quality of eerieness.
The only rule when reading a Dr. Seuss poem is to have fun. And if you're reading it aloud (which you'd better be), do voices. You've got to do voices.