The literary Criticism in my life

Veronica has entered the era I have long wished for: the age of the bedtime story. Books have always been part of her life, but story is finally here too. I am really impressed with Dr. Suess and his use of first person.

…Dr. Seuss and his use…yes, I have been reading him. And I know most people are not going to care about the use of first person in his works. But really! Let me explain why it’s awesome even if you don’t notice it.

Some background: I am addicted to podcasts. Not a day goes by that I am not plugged into one.  I found a new one, Great Writers Inspire. Oxford University made a podcast for me, about books!

The first one I listened to was about Milton. The teacher was talking about his poem Lycidas. An elegy written in 1637 tells us about the use of first person. Milton is writing about a friend who died, a clergyman. Milton writes and writes about how sad it is that he is gone, and some political opinions about the church. But at the very end, he puts a narrator –an “uncouth swain” shows up as the person who has been giving us this poem.

Surprise! …and you thought it was Milton the whole time.

So, Dr. Seuss has a great ABC book. It is very modern graphic novel, with the pictures giving a lot to the story. Dr. Seuss’s ABC was written long after The Cat in the Hat but right before Hop on Pop.  It could be considered one of his lesser works, because it is not strong on plot.

Nevertheless, it delights me.

Big A

little a

What begins with A?

It goes on that way for a while, with amusing pictures. Veronica and I like to discuss whether the creatures are happy, sad or angry. The emotional content of the pictures are more accessible to her than the writing.

There are two yellow beings…They could be dogs, but they are really Dr. Suess imaginary creatures that we readers of his work have come to expect. These two guys are the  book, apparently asking the questions “What begins with A…B…C…?”

It isn’t until the letter I that we learn their names

What begins with I?

Ichabod is itchy

So am I

And the bigger yellow guy is scratching, the little yellow guy is pointing to him and scratching too.  Aha! The big guy is Ichabod. We don’t know who the little guy is, but at least we know that he must be the narrator. And we get our first person narrator, our ‘I’ on the letter I.

That Seuss is pulling a pun on us.

So we look for more I’s throughout. We see the yellow guys…Ichabod and the narrator. But no more ‘I’ until we get all the way to Z

Big Z

little z

What begins with Z?

And a pink and white checkerboard monster appears. She has never been introduced until now. But she introduces herself:

I do. I am a Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz as you can plainly see.

WHAT?! Double back on the surprise. Ichabod may be itchy, and the little yellow guy may have been scratching himself. But the Zizzer ZazzerZuzz is the ‘I’, she declared herself to be itchy way back on the letter I.

Long before we met her. And the graphical component of the book pulled a joke on us, making us think that Ichabod’s brother yellow guy was the one talking.

But no. Just like Milton’s uncouth swain,  Seuss’s ZizzerZazzerZuzz pulled a trick on us.

Don’t assume.  Dr. Seuss was in control of his world. Just like Milton.

When Veronica has a rash now, I tell her she is Ichabod.

“I not ichabod!” she says with a big smile as I spread cream on her wiggly naked body. She’s got an ‘I’, although she doesn’t know what a narrator is yet.

I have more Dr. Seuss to read. Milton as well–I do want to finish Paradise Lost. Maybe I’ll be able to write a comparison with The Cat in the Hat when I do.


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