Hmm.. So I just had to get this post in and share my opinions before the day is over.
I remember loving Shel Silverstein as a kid so when his name popped up on my Tumblr dashboard, I thought I would re-read some of his stories and poems and bring back my childhood. The Giving Tree tells the story of a tree who unconditionally, selflessly, and continuously loves the young boy who used to come to her to play all the way until he’s old. What initially surprised me when I was looking for a pdf of the story were people’s negative comments about it, but after re-reading it, I understand where they’re coming from.. I’ve got mixed feelings about it to say the least.
Most people (myself included) interpret the story as an allegory for a parent-child relationship but where the negative comments arise is in the nature of it: the child takes and takes from the tree (parent) for many years until he is an old man, and the tree has nothing left to give (she literally gave the kid her whole body). I could feel myself getting upset as I progressed through the story because I felt no indication that the boy recognized or appreciated all that the tree gave him.. I get the feeling he grew up as a selfish brat! In a way The Giving Tree could be interpreted as a representation of a toxic relationship where the tree feels abandoned and sad, yet still loves him and wants him to come back to her, therefore feeling obligated to offer more and more in the hopes he will realize what she wants.
I don’t remember what I thought this story meant as a child but now I think it accurately depicts a really heartbreaking and harsh reality that many people experience. I think that this would be a good story for discussion in a grade 9(ish) English class when teenagers are going through their “rebel” phases.. I feel like a lot of teenagers feel a false sense of entitlement that makes them believe that they don’t owe their parents anything, not even appreciation. In that same way, reading this story in high school could also teach teens about how all relationships in general are a two-way street, and that the amount you give is just as important, if not more, as the amount you receive.
I just read on Wikipedia that The Giving Tree is one of the more divisive stories.. No kidding.
Read the story HERE.
Let me know what you think!