Our book today is one of the greatest coming-out stories ever written, Dr. Seuss’ 1960 mini-epic Green Eggs and Ham.
The familiar story opens with our stodgy, repressed hero sitting quietly at home reading when suddenly he’s interrupted by an alluring figure perched on the ass of a dog: “I am Sam,” the figure’s protest sign claims (in this book as in real life, the worst, the very worst sultry sirens are always named Sam), and when he returns an instant later, his new sign reiterates, “Sam I am.”
Although he’s always smiling and always stylish, Sam has a mission: he wants our stodgy reader to try some green eggs and ham. And he won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
The stodgy reader is naturally averse to up-ending his entire settled worldview. He’s got his paper, he’s got his hat, he’s got his comfortable bourgeois existence, and whatever fugitive desires for green eggs and ham he might have experienced in his youth he’s long since buried under years of distractions.
On some level, Sam knows this. He realizes that the only way he’s ever going to get the stodgy reader to open himself up to green eggs and ham this late in the game is to shake things up – the more outrageous the setting of the green eggs and ham, the more trivial (and less threatening) the change will seem in itself.
“Would you like them in a house?” Sam seductively asks, offering domestic tranquility; “would you like them in a box?” he follows up, perhaps sensing that the stodgy reader has grown fond of his self-imposed social limits. “Would you like them with a mouse?” “Would you like them with a fox?” he suggests, covering both the familiar urban animal-type and the familiar suburban trickster.
His victim is adamant: “I do not like them, Sam I am! I do not like green eggs and ham!”
Sam breaks out the big guns: Freudian imagery. “Would you like them in the rain?” he asks, and the pages drip with thick translucent drops. “Would you like them on a train?” he asks, as the glistening, throbbing engine pushes forward. And inevitably, “Would you like them in the dark? Would you, could you, in the dark?”
“I would not, could not, in the dark,” his victim screams, but we can practically taste his desperation. He never expected to be soaking wet in a dark tunnel being so energetically propositioned by svelte little Sam I am, and now that it’s happening, he’s not 100 percent sure he doesn’t like it.
The pair, their engine, and their various hangers-on all propulsively spurt into a vast sloshing ocean, and while both the victim and wily Sam are totally submerged, Sam pleads, “Try them! Try them!” one last time, with a plaintive, come-hither gleam in his eye.
Finally, his victim gives in and eats of the forbidden green eggs and ham.
His eyes are opened:
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!
(Sam wisely refrains from saying, “Slow down, Nellie. Baby steps”)
“I do so like green eggs and ham,” the emancipated victim says, his lips and chin still greasy with the remnants of his feast. “Thank you, thank you, Sam I am.”
Sam just grins. Mission accomplished.