Monday, February 25, 2008

Another Twist In The Tale of Green Eggs and Ham: A Conversion Story

A reader named Rowan McDowell Thompson wrote in with this alternate reading of what I claimed was an evil conspiracy to twist the minds of toddlerdom toward sin, that book on every young family's shelf, Green Eggs and Ham. Mr. Thompson seems like the hopeful, glass-half-full sort, arguing for emphasizing the positive message for God embedded within. Posted with permission:

Dear Ironic Catholic,

I'd like to start by saying that I appreciate your interpretation of Sam I Am as being a warning to the dangers of temptation. I agree that there is much truth in this analysis of the children's book and that it should be read with that as a reminder beforehand. I feel that to read a book such as this to your child, one must be reminded of how open (and somewhat vague) not only Dr. Seuss, but many other children's authors are.

As much as I recognize this interpretation as being valid and equally as correct as my own, that's not the purpose I intended for this letter.

It is my feeling that when dealing with the impressionable minds of children, it is best for one to give positive reinforcement rather than to tell the child what not to do. With that background on my thoughts, I believe that Sam I Am is more understandable and more likely to be formative if a positive message is given as a reminder to accompany the warning.

With all that said, here is my interpretation of the book, I hear this as a conversion story:

The Nameless Soul (as you so perfectly call him), is ignorant and intolerant. Rather than being the protagonist, his is simply the idea of ignorance personified.

In the illustration, he sits lazily and is irritable when Sam (the smaller character, and therefore more easily identifiable for a child) tries to introduce him to something he has discovered. For me, this something is finding salvation in God. Not so much something unnatural but new and foreign to the both of them. The Nameless Soul is in ignorant bliss and is not interested in changing his disgraceful ways, but Sam yearns terribly to share his new treasure with the Nameless Soul.

Sam has found the most incredible gift he could give to anyone, the knowledge of God, of love and forgiveness and grace. So he tries desperately to negotiate terms on which the Nameless Soul would be comfortable enough to step outside his callow mind and possibly find God.

Finally, the Nameless Soul gives in, and tries this thing most foreign to him. He loves it. He falls in love with God almost instantaneously. So, as the Nameless Soul rejoices with Sam for having helped him find God, he promises to continue with God everywhere.

This could not be more beautiful to me. Instead of both characters ending in a sinful life of temptation, both end in the light of a faithful life.

I'm glad you are doing what you do and writing what you write. Thank you. Voices are meant to be heard.

Rowan McDowell Thompson

Bravo, Mr. Thompson.


DMinor said...

To emphasize the trinitarian nature, perhaps Seuss should have included a third element: Green Eggs, Ham and Toast?

angelmeg said...

Yeah Toast!