Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lauren’s Book Club 2.0

It’s been a while, but we’re going to take a look at another alleged ‘classic’ and the madness that exists between its pages.

Shel Silverstein – The Giving Tree

‘Once there was a tree, and she loved a little boy.’ And so begins the truly tragic tale of a tree with dangerously low self esteem. People seem to think that this story is all about the spirit of giving. People are wrong.

He carves his initials into you
He brings his new girlfriend around just to rub it in your face
He leaves you, then comes back asking for money
He takes your sweet, sweet, juicy fruit
He cuts off your arms
He dismembers you with a chainsaw and leaves your stump in the forest
He goes to the forest and sits on your stump

Ok, so the boy is selfish. We see this at the beginning of the book where as a child, one of his favourite games to play with the tree is Hide and Seek. This game puts the tree at an extreme disadvantage, since she is rooted to the ground and therefore unable to hide, or in fact, seek. If the boy was a true friend, he would have been up for the occasional game of ‘pretend to be a tree.’ But she plays Hide and Seek anyway, because it makes him happy.

Over the next few years the boy comes and goes as he pleases. He takes her apples for his own financial gain, builds a house out of her branches, and uses her body for a boat. Considering he took more wood for the boat than he did for the house, I’m guessing it was a pretty kick ass boat. Or a really shitty house. But despite the emotional and physical damage his selfish and violent behavior is doing to her, the tree tolerates it. Because it makes him happy.

The boy comes back for the last time as a tired old man. The tree has nothing left to give him, as he has bled her dry. So he just sits. And this makes her happy, ALLEGEDLY.

Due to the size of the tree, it is apparent that she has been around for quite some time before the boy enters her life (I tried to count the rings on her stump but went blind in the process), and one is left wondering what incidents occurred in her past that have left her with such low self esteem. Maybe she’s just lonely in that forest? Maybe the whole situation could have been avoided if someone had planted a redwood nearby? Redwoods, afterall, being the tallest and sexiest of the tree community.

I have never liked this book. Even when I was little there was something about it that didn’t sit right with me. There is no happy ending for our damsel in distress. It’s not a tale of friendship or giving, but one of undeserved unconditional love from a magical talking tree that somehow still manages to speak after it has been cruelly disfigured.

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