Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Giving Tree

I can't decide who's the bigger asshole: The tree or the kid.

In thinking about this since my childhood (I wanted to punch Shel Silverstein's classic in the face even then), I have never figured out what all the precious fuss was about.


While some claim this book is about unconditional love, to me it smacks of a cautionary tale heard over and over again in twelve-step programs. In addition to being a playmate (branches to swing on), a protector (shielding the kid from harmful rays), a provider (offering up its fruit for food, branches for a house, and trunk for a boat), and a stool (finally a stump), The Giving Tree is a sap.

Plus, the tree is female, which makes her continual sacrifice to this knob even more annoying and questionable.

Might I suggest that this parable serve as a lesson to all the other anthropomorphic trees and shrubs out there. Set some boundaries, learn to say no, and get your Serenity Prayer on. Accept that you can't change greedy, thoughtless little shits, muster up some courage to change your behavior and drop an apple on his head, and get wise to his ways. That's the path to happy, joyous, and tree.

13 comments:

Autie Mom32 said...

Amen. My ex wanted to give my daughter that book. I am sure he thought of himself as the "giving" tree, but he in fact was the selfish ass and she was the one who was always hurt. I agree with your take on this book, punch away :)

Enchanted Sharon said...

I always thought The Giving Tree was one of my favorite books but you made me look at it in a whole new light.
Priceless! :-)

Jenn June said...

I completely agree!! I don't remember reading this as a child but I checked the book out as a possible read for my son and quickly decided there was no effin way this one was going to make it's way into our house. Sappy, sad and miserable is how I felt after reading it. The whole "unconditional love" point was lost on me, so thanks for explaining that. I just thought the kid was an absolute ass and felt sorry for the damn tree, lol.

Karrie said...

I've never loathed a book about a co-dependent tree so much. They banned it in Boulder, CO because it was anti-environment. Schools have banned it too. I am not a fan of censorship but this book supports the very attitudes that people spend their entire lives trying to undo from unhealthy parental modeling. "Boy, come take all I have and leave me with nothing because I have no self esteem or boundaries. I exist for you." Gross. I am truly stumped why it's been so beloved for so long.

Anonymous said...

Really? I saw it as a lesson in not wasting things. Like how Native Americans used every part of what they had. When they killed an animal the at the meat, used the hide as clothing and shelter and the bone as tools. I respect your position but possibly there are more than just the two views presented.

I also want to say that I am in no way a chronic optimist, I like to punch things in the face just as much as the next person.

CupOfStars said...

I like to see the book as a lesson to kids. I don't think any kid out there is going to become more selfish for reading the book. This reminds me of a discussion I once heard about Rugrats. I knew someone who didn't allow their kid to watch it because Angelica was a brat. Well, yeah - ALL kids knew she was the brat and that they should act quite the opposite. I feel that kids are aware that the boy in the book is a bit selfish, and that they should be more giving. Kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for. Just my two pennies!

Anonymous said...

Agreed! And don't get me started on The Rainbow Fish!

Tara said...

tooooootallly!! i always hated this book and couldn't figure out what to take away from it! it seems like the tree is giving and selfless until she allows herself to be *chopped down* for some fcuking voyage that needs to be made for some unknown reason..even as a kid i was like, 'you're supposed to give until you *die*?!?' let's have some self-respect, ppl (and trees).

Anonymous said...

I think you're funny but now you've dropped a duece on my favorite book... Pfft.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I began dating a Really Nice Guy. Things were great, until one evening we had a discussion about this book, this damn book. I loathe this book, despise it, have hated it since I was a child. He adores the book, had fond memories of it as a child and he kept it as an adult. So, we were sitting in my kitchen and he saw my roommate's copy of the book on a shelf. He told me that we should all strive to be the tree, that hers was the ultimate gift and that we (humans) are selfish at heart and that overcoming our selfishness and becoming more like the tree is beautiful, and is the lesson to take from the story. I said no, no way, the tree is foolish, doesn't set any limits and lets herself be wasted away -- to what end? The boy is a turd-faced user and actually, both of them are despicable... and around and around we went. We began arguing about who was most lacking in reading comprehension skills. Finally, I stood and yelled that martyrdom was sick, possibly sicker than being an ungrateful, careless, TAKER, and he laughed at me in astonishment and dismay. Then, I told him that I thought it was best that he went home.

That heated discussion was probably the stupidest argument I've ever had in my life. I am still astonished at the visceral reaction I had. It's not like I've spent much time thinking about that particular book, but something about the way he valorized martyrdom really chapped my hide.

Anyhow, the Really Nice Guy and I are no longer dating. We are friends on Facebook, however, and I see he is now engaged to a Really Nice Girl. I wonder if they've ever discussed this book...

Jennifer Worick said...

The above might be my favorite PITF comment ever.

Plucky Maidens said...

You nailed it. Again. The other children's "classic" that I despise is Love You Forever. Talk about boundaries! And the illustrations are hideous. UGH.
Pam

Anonymous said...

I didn't mind this book quite as much as "Where the Wild Things Are." That one always gave me the creeps.