Dr. Seuss

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is one of Dr. Seuss’s most popular books. Since its publication in August of 1960, it has sold over eight million copies worldwide. The story has been adapted for screen and audio several different times. ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is considered to be a “Beginner Book,” one of several that Seuss wrote for Random House and intended for kids three to nine. 

The vocabulary is incredibly limited. There are only fifty unique words within the pages. This was the result of a bet between Seuss and a colleague. It has consistently ranked high on the list of the most popular children’s books of all time. 

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss


Summary of Green Eggs and Ham

‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by Dr. Seuss is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time and follows two friends, Sam-I-Am and Guy-Am-I. 

This simple story is made up primarily of Sam pestering Guy about trying green eggs and ham. Finally, after pages and many lines of annoying suggestions, Guy tells Sam that he’ll try the eggs if Sam will just leave him alone.

Although this book was written with young readers in mind there is a moral to the story of Sam and Guy that applies to any reader no matter their age. Trying new things, the last lines allude to, might be hard but in the end, it will be worth it. Who knows, you could be like Guy and end up loving the new thing you thought you’d hate. 

You can read the full poem here.


Poetic Techniques in Green Eggs and Ham

Despite the simplicity of the story, Dr. Seuss makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. These include but are not limited to repetition, anaphora, epistrophe, and alliteration. The latter, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. For example, the repetition of words like “ham” and “Sam” are scattered throughout the poem and appear on every page. 

Repetition can also be seen through the use of anaphora and epistrophe. The former, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. In this case, the first-person pronoun “I” appears numerous times at the beginning of lines, as does ‘Would” and “Could”. Epistrophe is the opposite of anaphora. It is concerned with the repetition of words at the ends of lines. In this case, words like “there,” “where,” and “fox”. 


Analysis of Green Eggs and Ham 

Lines 1-41

In the first lines and pages of ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ the speaker declares that he is “Sam. “Sam I Am.” Sam addresses an unnamed listener who in later additions of the book is named “Guy-Am-I” to eat green eggs and ham. Throughout these lines, and throughout the entire book, Seuss makes use of repetition. This is seen through the general reuse of words like “Eggs” and “Sam” as well as phrases like “I do not like them”. Int he first part of this short book there is a great example of anaphora with the repetition of “I would not like them” used multiple times at the start of lines, as well as “I do not like”. 

The speaker, Sam, addresses his friend over and over again pestering him, trying to get him to eat these eggs in any location. These lines are meant to be amusing as well as provide the young reader with an opportunity to test their comprehension and pronunciation of these simple words. 

There are examples of full and half-rhyme throughout the story. These are seen through words like “would” and “could” placed near each other and repeated as well as “Ham” and “Am” which appear over and over again. 


Lines 42-64

The listener, Guy, gets more annoyed as the story goes on. He refuses Sam’s most ardent suggestions such as when he repeats the word “Train!” over and over again as if this is the answer. The train is a no-go as is the “tree,” “box,” and with a “fox”. 

There are several examples of juxtaposition in this poem/book as Sam tries desperately to figure out somewhere that he can convince his friend to try this food. He also continues to come back with the same ideas. This helps create a rhythm in the lines and a built-in rhyme scheme and meter. 


Lines 65-87 

‘Green Eggs and Ham’ goes on, continuing to repeat itself. There are examples in this section of the story where the speakers mimic one another, answering each question with an exclamation using the same words. By slightly altering the phrases in this way Seuss was able to stick to his fifty-word limit. At the same time, he creates what is almost a tongue twister. Finally, Sam’s friend decides that if Sam leaves him alone that he’ll try the eggs. He does so, and the last lines of the story follow. 


Lines 88-103

In the conclusion of ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ Seuss changes Guy’s tone. Now, rather than declaring that he won’t eat the eggs anywhere, he says that he would eat them anywhere that Sam asked or he could think of. They are “so good, so good”. He thanks sam for his pestering and recommendation and the book comes to a close. Although a great example of nonsense verse and clear experimentation with language and its limitations, this story also has a lesson for the young readers/listeners. Trying new things might be hard at first but in the end, one might find out that they like them. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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