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Dr. Seuss

An analysis of the stylistic devices and patterns that typify Dr. Seuss' works.

Heather Roughton

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of Dr. Seuss

Textual Arena
The ways that words interact with one another to form patterns and meanings in a text
Social Arena
Interactions between writers and readers through the words and structures in the text
The writer often assigns a role to the reader
Dr. Seuss commonly presents himself as a storyteller
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
Particular devices, known as rituals of language, have significance to larger communities of language users
Cultural Arena
Seussical Style
From: Oh, The Places You'll Go

"The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train
to go
or a bus to come, or a plane
to go
or the mail to come, or the rain
to go..."

An example of Epistrophe
Epistrophe adds emphasis and rhythm, and mimics the monotony of waiting for action [to go] in the Waiting Place, where there is little action.
An example of Anadiplosis
An example of Neologism
From: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

"They'll dance with

tied onto their heels.
They'll blow their
They'll bang their
Seuss invents words to enlist his larger cultural audience: children. The use of neologisms demand a sense of creativity from the audience while also adding humor.


The repetition of the phrase "I've looked" emphasizes the boy's drudgery as he walks the same path every day. The repetition mimics the action of the boy as he repetitively looks for new and exciting sights.
The repetition of the beginning phrase, "stop," characterizes the father as a stern authoritarian and realist. The repetition of "stop" emphasizes the daily suppression of the boy's imagination.
The parallel structure creates a list of commands closely grouped together. This represents the rigid, attitude and structure of the father, furthering his characterization.
The list leads to a climax, ending in his exclamation of excitement. The reader's anticipation parallels the boy's anticipation upon arriving home.
The simile takes an abstract concept and compares it to a familiar visual image, making it easier for the reader to understand.
Dr. Seuss uses anapestic tetrameter to create a steady pace and rhythm throughout his work. This lends the story towards performance and engages the reader.
The use of capitalization and other dynamic punctuation emphasizes the boy's emotions and creates similar emotions in the reader. It also lends the piece to performance and emphasizes Seuss' role as storyteller in most of his children's stories; the use of all caps engages younger readers by providing visual cues for how the lines should be read.
Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! has been broadly accepted as a book of guidance for kindergarteners and college graduates alike. Seuss' book fits into the cultural arena by rituals of language that a wide community of language users can identify with, including cliches and idioms.
Rituals of language in
"Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
1. "You can get all hung up."
2. "You'll meet things that scare you right
out of your pants."
3. "And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act."
4. "Kid, you'll move mountains."
5. "Congratulations! Today is your day."
Seuss incorporates several rituals of language to enlist readers in his wise words about the journey of life. In the examples, he provides a wide audience ( anyone from kindergarten graduates to PhDs) with a certain familiarity via the use of idioms and cliches, so that they can apply the broad statements and words of encouragement to their own individual life's journeys.
“A fine idea!" said the King. “Ho, Guard! bring me
knows about everything in all my kingdom.”
From: The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins
Anadiplosis adds emphasis on Nadd's name because he knows everything in all the kingdom, and is an important person. Moreover, it adds a certain rhythm and cadence to the flow of the words.
Dr. Seuss' overall use of stylistic devices in the textual, social, and cultural arenas provides a rich source of analysis through language (and often rhyme) that is familiar and comprehensible to children.
Enlisting readers as collaborators
From: Oh, the Places You'll Go
have brains in your head.
have feet in your shoes.
can steer
any direction
're on
own. And
know what
know. And
are the guy who'll decide where to go."
Dr. Seuss enlists his readers by addressing them with the second person point of view. The repetitive use of "you" makes the reader feel like the story and its words of advice are addressed to him or her.
Use of definite articles
"Into the Throne Room marched
smallest man, wearing
tallest hat that Bartholomew had ever seen. It was Sir Snipps. Instead of a sword, he wore at his side a large pair of scissors."
From: The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins
The use of definite articles communicates two things: first, Sir Snipps' entrance is not new information and second, Bartholomew is no dummy when it comes to hats. The story's theme centers on hats, and this is an important passage because it shows Bartholomew's interest in hats and his prior knowledge of who Sir Snipps is.
Style Mirroring Subject Matter
From: The 500 Hats Of Bartholomew Cubbins
The apparent silliness and "nonsense" at the surface of Seuss' fantastical lands, invented words, playful rhymes and captivating illustrations inevitably work together with other stylistic devices to form morals and meanings in his work that are deliberately crafted to engage and reach children.
All the long way to school
And all the way back,
I've looked and I've looked
And I've kept careful track.
But all that I've noticed,
Except my own feet
Was a horse and a wagon on Mulberry Street.
Style Mirroring Subject Matter
From: And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street
Rhetorical devices and vivid imagery combine to create an experience for the reader. The repetition and syntax mimics the monotony of the boy's daily walk, which creates a similar feeling of drudgery within the reader. Dr. Seuss uses this method of style mirroring subject matter to increase the reader's involvement and emphasizes the boredom of the boy's daily walk to school.
Dr. Seuss' role as storyteller and use of illustrations, simple diction, rhyme, and specified intonation via non-standard punctuation and all caps encourages his audience to read his works aloud and "perform" them.
Style as Performance in The Grinch
By Kristina Auten, Heather Roughton,
Michael Watkins, and Joe Mauriello

"With a jangling of spurs and a clatter of horseshoes, the Captain and Bartholomew sped up the winding street toward the palace. Out of the narrow streets, on up the hill! Bartholomew clung to the Captain’s broad back. On and on they galloped, past the bright gardens of the wealthy merchants. Higher and higher up the mountain, on past the walls of the noblemen’s castles...."
Dr. Seuss creates a sense of momentum by constructing the sentences with concisely consecutive dependent and independent clauses. These clauses work to increase the pace of the sentences and build the action of traveling to the king's palace, thus mimicking the actual carriage ride.
Seuss Out Loud: Audience
Dr. Seuss’ predominant audience is children, so it’s probable he assumed the role of storyteller with the intention of having his work read aloud.

When shared orally, literature is more engaging for the narrator and the audience, especially younger audiences.

Given Seuss’ wide use of neologisms and unconventional punctuation and all caps, juxtaposed with his simple diction, his works encourage a range of variations in intonation and pace when read on an active or "performative" level.
The Grinch has since been made into both animated and non-animated full length movies, a medium easily enabled by his performance-like writing style and the culmination of above stylistic techniques.
Motives focused on Readers:
Seuss uses two cliched images in this passage from Mulberry Street. The chinese boy "eats with sticks" is a cultural cliche, while the magician doings tricks is a cliche image. He immediately breaks this pattern on the next page with a "Seussical" (and less familiar) image of a man with a ten-foot beard that needs a comb.
The Devices and Patterns that Typify Dr. Seuss' Style
Our representative text for analysis:
Dr. Seuss' first book
Rhetorical Questions
Marco's father tells him to keep his "eyelids" up and see what he can see. He refers to a part of the boy's eyes to represent the whole, that is, to refer to the act of looking and watching for new sights on his journey. Seuss also refers to the singular "Police" to refer to the entire force or law. The use of synecdoche helps to show, identify, and characterize the subjects it addresses while adding imagery to the story.
The rhetorical questions "But now is it fair? Is it fair what I've done?" enlist the reader to think of responses. The questions are a call for participation and force the reader to respond to the text.
Rhetorical Questions
The alliteration creates a "sing-song" feel to the piece. This adds to the performance element within the work and also connects and engages the reader visually through patterns in the text. The alliteration also adds emphasis to the words Dr. Seuss most wants to stand out.
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