The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a tender story, alive with both sorrow and happiness. With its simple line drawings and almost lyrical writing it makes its reader stop and think about what it truly means to love someone.
There is a tree, and she loves a little boy. Every day the boy will come and play, he will make a crown of her leaves and pretend to be king of the forest. He will swing in her branches, eat apples, and when he gets tired he will rest in her shade. But things change, and people grow up, and as time passes the little boy comes by less and less. Now when he visits the tree it is to complain, or ask for something. The tree gives all she can, her apples to sell when he demands money, her branches so he can build a house, everything she has until she can give no more. When she is nothing but a stump and the boy returns as an old man she is sorry, for she thinks she has nothing left for him. Sometimes though, the things to be desired most are not in a form that we can quantify, and as long as you care for someone you have the most important things left to give-love and the simple act of companionship.
Interpretation of The Giving Tree
It never ceases to amaze me just how much animosity people have towards this story. Its meaning has been dissected to the point of over-interpretation and there is so much controversial opinions swirling around it. People feel its sexist-that the tree being a female and giving everything she has to the boy until she is nothing but a stump that he sits on represents gender inequality. Some feel that Shel Silverstein pushes a terrible message onto our children, urging them to take advantage of the ones that love them and act selfishly. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and it is not for me to say who is right and who is wrong, I can only present my own feelings.
I do not think that this story is meant to teach children about just sharing. I think its meaning runs much deeper than that. I think it is meant to evoke certain emotion in its readers, which they can than think about and learn from. The way most children react at the end of The Giving Tree-they are upset, or saddened by the ending. They are not getting the message that they should go out and act like the boy does, instead they ask ‘why?’ The Giving Tree is powerful in that whether or not children are okay with the ending, it is such a thought provoking book for them.
Do We Recommend The Giving Tree?
I would recommend it, despite the controversy. I think it is a lovely tale, albeit a sad one, but lovely none the less. I do not think it will press a negative message onto children, I think that it will raise their awareness about what it means to love someone, and the hardships that sometimes come with it.