Narrative Style and Structure of Dr. Seuss'The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, told in folktale style, was written by Dr. Seuss in 1938. According to Charity Belle Mays, “Folktales deal with adventures both plausible and implausible wrapped in the forms of human or animal abilities. They are the simple tales that have truly evil people or animals, and truly good people or animals, and the good always wins out in the end in these stories, giving way to the child's version of fairness.” This story recounts young Bartholomew Cubbin’s misadventures while going to market in town. Bartholomew, a paragon of politeness and obedience, unwittingly finds trouble when he is unable to keep a hat off his head and offends King Derwin.
The folktale begins with introductions to Bartholomew and King Derwin, the potential “hero” and “villain.” The first several pages emphasize the great contrasts between their lives; Bartholomew is poor and feels insignificant versus the King’s wealth and mighty self-image. With such opposite lifestyles, Seuss must create a way for their paths to cross. He accomplishes this by sending Bartholomew to market to sell cranberries when the King’s carriage passes by. Bartholomew would never have been noticed except for a very odd happening; after removing his hat as ordered by the King, another one automatically appears atop his head! The confrontation is set, as the mighty “villain” cannot stand for such impudence.
Throughout the story, Seuss uses juxtaposition; one example is Bartholomew’s mannerly and dutiful actions glaring against the King’s boorish arrogance. The Grand Duke Wilfred, the King’s young spoiled rotten nephew, provides a perfect foil to Bartholomew. Wilfred draws attention to...