Book Review: Green Eggs and Ham

Theodore Geisel’s treatise Green Eggs and Ham (Beginner Books) is an ambitious work. It seeks to unify themes of longing, friendship, anger, acceptance, and culinary conformity. In addition, the book delves into Mormon themes — as one might expect, given Geisel’s little-known affiliation with the Mormon church — including blood atonement, polygamy, eternal progression, Kolob, Facsimiles One and Two, and sugar beets.

Covering all of this ground would be a hard task under any conditions. And Geisel’s attempt to do so in a mere 62 pages is breathtaking in its audacity. One must give the man credit for his gumption. And given his past success in covering similar themes in The Cat in the Hat, I went into this book with high hopes. Ultimately, however, Geisel’s project fails, and this reviewer is left saying, “I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I Am.”

The first thing one notices is the book’s cover. The cover illustration is a sort of “Salvador Dali meets Minerva Teichert,” in orange. The explicit Mormonness of the cover is both jarring, and also a tad discombobulating, as if to say “I’m Mormon and I’m going to write a silly book, and I double-dog-dare you to stop me.” The eclectic mix continues inside, with illustrations definitely influenced by a mix of Kandinsky and Friberg.

The exploration of church themes is omnipresent. For example, “would you like them here or there?” is a transparent reference to the journey of the early LDS pioneers. The difficulties of seagoing pioneers are not ignored, as the large ship portrayed on page 47 bears more than a passing resemblance to the ship Brooklyn which early LDS immigrants used to come to California.

The moral message of the book is a tough one. We see the poor, unnamed protagonist begin with a firm resolve to persevere to the end (2 Nephi 31:20). Yet, by the end of the book, this laudable goal has been completely defenestrated, as our protagonist turns to a life of egg-eating hedonism. Some have suggested that this is a morally depraved ending. However, I believe that we can view it as ironic — that is, a wink-wink, nudge-nudge, too-cool-for-you commentary on today’s decadent materialistic society. In this way, the book becomes a perfect companion to Hugh Nibley’s Approaching Zion.

However, the book suffers from a lack of a clear geographical base. Parts of it clearly indicate what could be termed a continental model. That is, Sam I Am and the Unnamed Protagonist (UP) appear to be in Vermont (18), Minnesota (23), and Nevada (47). Yet Sorenson has suggested that it would not be practical for UP to travel to so many places, so quickly. Thus, Sorenson suggests, what is really at work is a limited geography model, where the entire scope of the action takes place in Des Moines, Iowa. But recent reports of the discovery of both green eggs and ham in Minnesota has cast serious doubt on Sorenson’s thesis. In short, the book’s geographical ambiguity undercuts its otherwise strong message.

Given its weaknesses, I cannot entirely recommend this book to our readers. However, it may appeal to certain segments. Its negative construction of the concept of green eggs and ham may be helpful for readers who are interested in apophatic theology. And its innovative use of historical allegory is commendable, and fits well within the New Mormon History school. But ultimately, I could not, would not recommend this unusual volume to the rest of our esteemed readers.

31 comments for “Book Review: Green Eggs and Ham

  1. You forgot to mention the heavy use of Chiasmus (I am Sam, Sam I am), which indicates possible roots in ancient Hebrew prophecy.

  2. Some scholars have even suggested that the Sam in the book is Nephi’s brother. One obstacle to the theory is that Sam, being righteous, would hardly be urging the eating of ham, which was prohibited under the Mosaic law. However, the fact that the ham is green indicates that the pig from which it came must have undergone some sort of genetic modification, and if the modification extended to making the pig chew its cud, then the meat would no longer be prohibited.

  3. There is also speculation that Geisel was proposing an alternate Messiah. Since we know that Jehovah in the Old Testament referred to himself as “I Am” to Moses, perhaps Geisel was proposing an alternative named “Sam I Am”?

  4. Ivan, what are you thinking? Raca! Is not the book titled “Green Eggs and Ham”? Clearly this unkosher monstrosity does not qualify as ancient Hebrew scripture.

  5. Ivan, I must admit that I agree with danithew. It really goes too far to suggest that Jews circa 600 B.C. would have advocated the combination of green eggs and ham (nothing indicates, by the way, that the ham is green; indeed a close reading and scrutiny of the pictures suggests otherwise). Furthermore, many aspects of the book speak directly against its historicity. First of all, there is no identifiable DNA that creates a creature that looks even remotely like Sam or the creature that Sam I Am is trying to convince to eat the unkosher monstrosity. Second, many of the depictions in the book defy the laws of physics. Finally, no physical evidence exists that proves the existence of Sam I Am.

  6. Maybe by “green,” the author really meant “white and delightsome,” while maybe by “ham,” the author really meant the meat from one of those South American llamas that the natives were apparently riding. If you think about it, it’s so intuitive. My testimony remains intact.

    Aaron B

  7. Obviously, this book doesn’t sufficiently decry any and all possible racial implications of the Restored Gospel. After all, it unabashedly invokes the name of Ham, as if to say that the Israelite members of the Church (as represented by Sam, the brother of Nephi) should actually eat the descendants of Ham. This really goes too far. Obviously every member of the Church is racist.

  8. Keep in mind that the ancient Nephites lived as if Christ had already come, so really, keeping kosher was no longer a requirement.

    The green eggs, however, is just weird.

  9. Just because we have yet to find archeological evidence of Green eggs does not mean they do not exist.

    You are all trying to prove a negative! Darn it, I tell you that these ancient Hebrews obvioulsy knew that Green eggs and ham were allowed, due to personal revelation they must have recieved!

    You can’t argue with Chiasmus!!!!!!

  10. John Fowles:

    > (nothing indicates, by the way, that the ham is green; indeed a close reading and scrutiny of the pictures suggests otherwise).

    Perhaps you have engaged in such close reading and scrutiny that you have gone colorblind. I direct your attention to the cover of the book:

    The ham is undeniably green. You may like to think the world is black and white, but more sophisticated people are able to see shades of green.

  11. The true test is whether Sam eats his ham in moderation, only in times of winter or famine.

  12. Well, I just wasn’t trying to judge a book by its cover. You know how unfair that can be.

  13. I am wondering if since the ham is already there, if it would be ok to add cheese to the mix. I know that normally mixing dairy and meat products is forbidden — but since the ham is already there we might as well go the whole way. And I’m wondering if Kaimi could make some suggestions as to what cheese would go best with green eggs and ham. I’d normally go with a smoked Gouda but the delicate sophistication of Kraft Singles is hard to ignore.

  14. Danithew,

    The proper cheese here is a little known artisanal cheese called Cheez Whiz. Cheese whiz, in case you didn’t know, is a Velveeta-style yellow cheese created by artisans in America by a secret, traditional method. The cheese has a creamy, sweet flavor, with notes of butterscotch, lavendar, oak barrels, truffles in the springtime, and pop rocks. It marries well with balsamic vinegar, baby spinach, pomegranates, Jerusalem artichokes, and of course, green eggs and ham. Don’t forget to warm it to room temperature before serving, in order to better appreciate its delicate nuances.

  15. Thank you Kaimi for your quick response. That sounds delicious and I will attempt to bring that dish to the next NYC bloggersnacker I am able to attend.

  16. Yes, John. The ham is employed as a representation of the seed of Ham (who were once unjustly considered pure descendants of Cain and therefore thought to be recipients of his curse). The unique color of green is thought to be inappropriate for meats and therefore is viewed as undesirable for consumption. It is only after the relentless persuasion of Sam, also known as “I am”, that the unnamed protagonist finally tries the green ham and over comes his cultural bias against it.

    Ha! I love twisting an inspired text… wait a minute…

  17. “Keep in mind that the ancient Nephites lived as if Christ had already come, so really, keeping kosher was no longer a requirement.”

    Jarom 1: 5
    And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.

    Hel. 13: 1
    And now it came to pass in the eighty and sixth year, the Nephites did still remain in wickedness, yea, in great wickedness, while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God, according to the law of Moses.

  18. Steve,

    The law of Moses is no laughing matter. I suggest you brush up on your early Nephite culture before making comments around here. It may help somewhat if you review the answers that Zelph gives us.

  19. That’s why there are no more cureloms and cumoms. They were kosher and the Nephites barbequed them into nonexistence. The last curelom was marinaded, slowly roasted whole and eaten by king Noah. Dr. Seuss knew of these beasts but “Green Eggs and Curelom” just doesn’t have the same feel to it.

    Cured cureloms and cumin. Say it fifty times as fast as you can.

  20. Perhaps “Ham” really is the Biblically cursed “Ham,” while “green eggs” is really a veiled, pejorative reference to “collared greens.” If so, the book title is a horribly insensitive reference to outdated Mormon racial theologies of cursed lineages, while a simultaneous invocation of Southern White racist culinary stereotypes, and I, for one, am extremely offended.

    Aaron B

  21. I have heard tale the the meat of a roasted, smokes chupacabra has a greenish tinge to it; more teal than kelly, yet green all the same. Eating goat will do that to you.

    As to it’s comparison to the flavor of ham, suffice it to say there’s already plenty of ham around here.

  22. I can’t BELIEVE nobody has yet noticed that there are NO women in this book.


  23. Oh, wrong you are, Kristine.

    Ode to My Sister

    Train passenger
    (phallic train)
    From train to boat you fall
    (at the hands of men)
    Not the actor in your own drama
    But pawn.

    Flower in your hair
    (symbol of your frailty
    (or so they say))

    From boat to water
    you fall
    you fall

    Do they even notice?
    My sister.

  24. Do you people not realize this is a story about not judging something until you have tried it?!! You are taking an INNOCENT children’s book and perverting it with your own sick thoughts. I’m doing a paper for my college english class, and unfortunately I stumbled upon this website, which proved of absolutly no value. Look at this story in an objective fashion and you might be able to see it for it’s true value ( though I don’t believe your narrow mindness will permit it).

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