Horton Hatches The Egg

Dr. Seuss


Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss was an American children’s author and cartoonist.

He's the most popular children's book writer of all time.

Dr. Seuss’s ‘Horton Hatches The Egg’ was published in June of 1940 by Random House.  There is one well-known story around the conception of this tale that came out through various biographers. Some believe that the story was born when Seuss left a window open and the wind carried a sketch of an elephant over towards a sketch of a tree. But, it is more likely that this endearing story has developed over time and never actually occurred. There are references to similar storylines in other prior Seuss works. 

Since its publication, this book has remained quite popular and financially successful. It has a moral story at its root, as do all of Seuss’s books. It encourages children to be responsible and care for those in their care. If they do these things, then they will be rewarded with a good life and eventual happiness. 

Horton Hatches The Egg by Dr. Seuss


Summary of Horton Hatches The Egg

‘Horton Hatches The Egg’ by Dr. Seuss tells the story of Horton the Elephant who is tricked into sitting on an egg while the mother bird vacations. 

The first part of the book describes how Mayzie, a lazy mother birth convinced Horton to sit on her egg while she takes a break. This is “break” soon turns into a vacation as the bird permanently relocates to Palm Beach. Despite this fact, Horton stays on the egg. He has to deal with numerous natural forces, such as rains and the sea. He is also laughed at by his friends and even captured by hunters. All the while he is determined to stay with the egg. 

In the last part of Horton Hatches The Egg, Horton is forced into a traveling circus. The story takes the reader to Palm Beach and Mayzie comes to see the circus just as the egg is about to hatch. When it does hatch, what comes out is an elephant bird, something of a cross between Horton and Mayzie. Horton gets to return to the jungle with the baby in the end, completing the moral ark of the story. 


Analysis of Horton Hatches The Egg

Part One 

In the first part of Horton Hatches The Egg, Horton comes into contact with Mayzie, the lazy bird mother. She’s “tired,” “bored” and has a kink in her leg from sitting on the egg all day. Despite it being her duty, its work that she hates. Seuss immediately juxtaposes the irresponsible parenting style of this bird to Horton who is more than willing to help out. There is a great deal to investigate here in regards to Seuss’s depiction of this female character and female characters in general. There are very few within his children’s books, making Mayzie, a lazy, “bad” mother, one of the most memorable. 

There is also a great visual contrast between the bird’s tiny egg and the elephant’s enormous body. It is something that even Horton acknowledges. Horton does as is requested despite his size and his fear that he’s going to break something. Seuss uses repetition in order to emphasize how long the elephant had to sit on the egg. It is used through the use of anaphora and refrain with the phrase “And he sat”. 

Horton deals with numerous difficulties as he rests on the egg, during this period it becomes clear that Mayzie has abandoned her child and gone to live at the beach. 


Part Two 

One of the best-known lines of the story, “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent!” is spoken for the first time in this section. It is used by Horton to remind himself and any who see and hear him that he’s dedicated to this task. Unlike Mayzie, he isn’t going to abandon the egg. 

To make his situation even more difficult, other creatures come around and taunt Horton. They claim that he thinks he’s a bird and then runs away. Lonely and miserable, Horton still sits on the egg. Seuss uses dialogue in this story to depict Horton’s determination as well as the other character’s surprise at his resting place high up in a tree.

The tone of all who see him, such as the “friends” and the hunters are shocked and amused. Seuss uses exclamation points and short sentences in order to get his point across. There is also a great deal of rhyme in these lines with words like “sea” and “tree” as well as repetition of phrases and of individual words. 

The hunters decide to take Horton to the circus where is he shown off for “ten cents a peek”. It’s clear that Seuss is trying to create a message for all the young readers and listeners who are exposed to this story, that one should not give up on their beliefs no matter how they are mocked nor how miserable they feel. 


Part Three 

The circus Horton has been forced to become a part of travels everywhere. It visits familiar and unfamiliar places in the United States and everywhere “thousands of folks flocked” to see the “elephant up in a tree”. “Folks flocked” is just one of many examples of alliteration in the lines of this book. 

Finally, in the climax of Horton Hatches The Egg, the circus goes to Palm Beach where Mayzie the lazy mother is living. She visits and recognizes Horton. At that exact moment, the egg hatches and she demands it back, saying that he stole it from her. When the baby comes out it is a combination of an elephant and a bird. 

The story concludes with everyone deciding that Horton was the “faithful” one and that he should get to take care of the baby. He is “sent home Happy / One hundred per cent”. This is a clear moral message aimed at the young audience about faithfulness, sticking to one’s beliefs, and how hard work can pay off in the end. 

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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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