“What Was I Afraid Of?” – Dr. Seuss and the Essence of Horror

Did you know that yesterday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday? I grew up with a lot of Dr. Seuss in the house. Green Eggs & HamĀ in particular had its definite place in the Annals of Greg, it being one of the earliest books that I learned how to read, but there was only one story of Seuss’s that had a particularly lasting impact on me. It was one of his lesser-known works, a short story called “What Was I Scared Of?” This story, peaceful conclusion and intended audience notwithstanding, is one of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever been told.

Following the narration of “I,” a lone, yellow imp-like creature, we find ourselves in an exceedingly creepy and desolate forest. The forest is illustrated in a unified midnight blue, a technique which proves surprisingly effective in its simplicity. This is the impenetrable darkness of night. Additionally, the unexplained context of this story–a strange creature wandering through strange surroundings–provides a chilling foundation. The reader is jarred into unease by a set of abruptly-presented unknowns.

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