NONONONONO!!! It is so interesting the way our own experiences shape our perception and our perspective about the world. I think that literature, in particular, requires us to use what we know about life in order to take certain intuitive leaps. And that is why I SO LOVE WORDS. I love that two people living two different lives can read the same poem and come away with widely varied interpretations that make sense.
I just re-read this story, for the first time since I taught elementary school 14 years ago, and I’d like first to say that it still makes me feel a little bit like hosting a bonfire, fed completely by copies of The Giving Tree.
You know, if I were the sort to burn books. Which I most DEFINITELY am not. Still, this particular book causes me the tiniest twinge of the kind of yuck-gut that could make a person wish a certain (OMG INSANE-FACED) Shel Silverstein had either added this to one of his poetry collections where it would have, almost certainly, withered in obscurity among brighter, or funnier, or even more twisted neighboring poems; or I wish he’d overcome the urge to write it altogether.
He didn’t, though. And here’s the way the book looks to me:
First, trees are not historically considered to be male in all systems of belief; they can symbolize fertility, proliferation, life. These are all feminine attributes. Some believe that trees can take sickness from man; some believe trees give sickness to man. Many cultures believe people and trees are bound together.
I totally get a feminine vibe from this particular tree.
A pathetic, co-dependent, annoying feminine vibe. A “my life is nothing without this boy” vibe. An “I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep this boy happy, no matter how he treats me” vibe. A “I will literally destroy myself by allowing this boy to take pieces of me until all that’s left is somewhere for him to sit” vibe.
I don’t get orphaned or feral from the boy, either. I get entitled, self-centered, and greedy, but he comes to play each day, right? Where does he go at night?
Mostly, though, for the boy I just get boy.
Reckless and carefree boy. And a tree whose happiness is dependent on what he does.
She reminds me of my mother.
I wonder what Silverstein’s mom was like.