Tag Archives: Oppression

The Giving Tree: Shel Silverstein

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I revisited the book as I was looking for a short read for my daughter. My search led back to this book I had read when I first joined a school as librarian. This was one of the first books I had read in a Read Aloud session . The story remained with me and has haunted  me or rather gathered roots in my mind. I am yet to read it to my daughter but now that I reread it I saw the book reach up to me in various shades which I had earlier skipped to notice back then. There can be several interpretations to seemingly short read of roughly 600+ words. I stopped myself several times when I happen to understand that it can be hated on many aspects just as it can be loved. I for once loved the book and still do. But what strikes me is that there are readers ho can be bitingly rude and give visceral reaction to the book because for them a positive and uplifting tale of giving without expecting anything in return is unaccepable.

Nowadays we are accustomed to reading a rather vaccinated version of tales that are meant to give lessons but without the bitter pill. But the, do they serve a purpose. These books might make a good read but often the lessons are lost in the trappings of he world. If we see famous children’s literature, it can be easily observed that the writers wrote with a clarity and skill that delivered the harshest of content but they did not compromise to spare the children the horrors of the world. Moreover, the morals were never explicit in content rather implied and gradually absorbed emotionally through the reading. Shel Silverstein under the garb of a gentle little children’s story has tried to pierce the fabric that makes humanity to unravel its numerous faults. ” Giving Tree” is a very disturbing book,  perhaps it’s because it’s intended to be so.

One of the most readily accepted interpretation is that of unconditional parental love. But then again it is a very sad and aching story, where the child never learns to  appreciate his parents and remains to be ever demanding even in his old days. This might ring true in today’s highly materialistic and monetary society, where parents try and suffice for lack of time with giving into demands the kids make. This only breeds a want that can never be satiated.

Yet  another is man’s greed as explained by environmentalist. It is seen as a reflection of man’s selfish exploitation of nature. Many women consider it a depiction of man’s subjugation, suppression and abuse of woman and woman’s shortcoming and cowardice to stand up for herself . The tree is referred to as “she”. An anonymous domain reflecting the same anonymity woman are forced to live with. It is also seen as

Many see this as an allegory for Christ’s sacrifice. This is because the tree, like Christ, gives herself entirely for the boy without questions and self thought. If seen as  a Christian allegory, it is a disturbing retelling of Christ’s terrible, painful, continuous rejection by man, and not the heart-warming tale of unconditional love and forgiveness we are taught. There is no repentance or remorse in “The Giving Tree,” and therefore no exoneration.

This book is a masterpiece and it would be a blunder if readers expect this book to draw morals we get from the Greek myths, the Bible stories and the old fairy tales, which were the staples of past generations. Today we expect books convey lessons where the characters  learns his/her lesson, a simplicity that is classic of today’s children’s literature. Children’s literature such as “The Giving Tree” plays a valuable role by helping children understand the ugly, beautiful, and complex truths of the world.

© Sigy George

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