Dr. Seuss

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

‘‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ by Dr. Seuss was published in 1960 in the United States by Random House. Since then it has been placed at number 13 on the list of All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books by Publisher’s Weekly. At the beginning of the century, it had sold over six million copies. It has also been named as one of the best books for teachers in the classroom. 

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss


Summary of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ by Dr. Seuss is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time and a prime example of nonsense verse

This book/poem does not contain a single narrative or plotline. The speaker changes and the imagery is always outrageous and enjoyable. The story loosely focuses on two young children, Jay and Kay, and the worlds they are being introduced to. There are strange sights to see, characters to meet, fish to judge, games to play, and words to say. The best part comes at the end when the children are informed they can do it all again the next day. 

You can read the full poem One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish here.


Poetic Techniques in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish 

Dr. Seuss made use of several poetic techniques in ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’. These include but are not limited to alliteration, repetition, and personification. The latter is one of the most obvious. Personification occurs when a poet imbues a non-human creature or object with human characteristics. It is seen in the first stanzas through the depictions of the fish. They have emotions, goals, and personalities. 

Alliteration is another important technique in this poem. It occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same sound. There are examples in almost every line of every stanza. It is one kind of repetition. There are several others present in the text, include 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. 

Epistrophe is the opposite of anaphora, it is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. There are numerous examples of anaphora and epistrophe throughout ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’. For instance, in stanzas one, two, and three. 


Analysis of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

Stanzas One through Six 

In the first few stanzas of ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ the speaker, starts off with one the best lines of the book and the one that came to be used as the title. The word “fish” is used over and over again, the first example of repetition in the book. Other examples in these first few stanzas include “This one” and “Some are”. Both of these phrases begin multiple lines, a technique known as anaphora. 

The speaker describes the fish, what they look like, and how they feel. Interspersed in amongst the various descriptions are questions and exclamations such as “Why are they sad and glad and bad?” And “Oh my! Oh my!”. The speaker/s do not know the answers to any of the questions they pose, adding to the fun of the story. A child might feel inspired to provide an equally nonsensical answer. 

As the poem continues the two main characters, Jay and Kay, are led around to see “Funny things” everywhere. This encourages an investigative attitude and a wonder over the strangeness of the world. In the third stanza, the speaker brings in nonsense language with the word “wump”. It is an unknown creature only described through rhyming language. There is also a man named Mr. Gump introduced and another named Ned. His feet stick “out of the bed all night”. Another character, Mike, comes briefly into the story. His main job is to propel the multi-person bike up the hill. 


Stanzas Seven through Sixteen

While still speaking to the children, as well as to Ned, the speaker asks him to have a look in his ear. There was “A bird in your ear” is the response. This is another characteristically Seussian moment that makes this book such a pleasure to read. 

Repetition becomes important once more in stanza eight of ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ with the use and reuse of phrases like “My shoe is off” and “I have a bird”. These are also examples of anaphora. Another technique, epistrophe, is also seen in this stanza. It appears through the repetition of words at the ends of lines, for example, “cold” and “hold”. One of the best-known images from the book is in stanza nine. There is a “Nook” with a book hanging from a hook on his head. The book is about how to cook. The perfect rhymes jump out at the reader one at a time. This is certainly a book that begs to be read out loud.


Stanzas Seventeen through Twenty-three 

The storyline in ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’ appears and disappears at random throughout ‘One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish’. In one moment the speaker/s are talking about a book and in the next a car then they’re on to talking about cans and “Zans,” another nonsense word. Other nonsense words in this section are “Gox,” “Ying,” “Yink,” and “Yop”. They are all crafted in order to create more perfect rhymes. These appear at the ends of lines as well as within them. This is known as internal rhyme. 

The poem concludes suddenly with the stanza that begins with “And now, Good night”. It encourages children to look forward to the next day because just as much fun is to be had around the corner. 

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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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