A reader writes:
I couldn't disagree more with Chaplain Mike; The Giving Tree is a horrid, horrid piece of work. It stars a little brat who takes and takes from this poor tree for the entire length of the book. The tree gives and gives and gives until it has literally nothing left; It becomes a pathetic, dying stump. It has nothing left for either itself or anyone else who comes by. And the book presents this as a good thing!
While some of Silverstein's other works (particularly A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up) are excellent for kids learning to read, anyone who would let their kids near The Giving Tree needs to ask what lessons they're really imparting.
Maybe I'm too cynical, or my MA in English drove all the starry-eyed optimism out of me, but the older I get, the more disturbed I am by The Giving Tree.
When it first came out, I was in my early 20s, spending my summers working as a camp counselor, and we read that book to our campers often. I loved it – the simplicity, the message of generosity. I gave it as a gift at baby showers and birthdays.
Like the Boy, however, I grew up. I noticed what a greedy, solipsistic little shit he is. Worse, he doesn't outgrow it, as most of us try to do. He takes and takes until that tree has nothing left, oblivious to the havoc he wreaks. If the tree were a human, we'd hold an intervention and tell it to get counseling for its martyr complex. Where's the "grace" in that??
I did click through and read Chaplain Mike's entire post, with its analogy between the tree and God. I'm not convinced. Even God expects some penitence for our sins. Moreover, there is just nothing redeemable about the Boy – surely a rather Calvinistic interpretation of humanity?
I love Shel Silverstein but have always hated that book and its message. That tree is on the receiving end of an abusive relationship and, in classic form, never stands up for itself. When my daughter got her hands on that book, my first words were, "Don't ever grow up to be that tree."
This topic cries out for the Sassy Gay Friend's take.