Monday, August 14, 2006

Not Food Related - The Giving Tree

So I did it again. I'd like to say that some argumentative person raised my hackles and I just had to respond, but this time I started the conversation. I was at the cast party for the show that I was in and a member of the cast was a children's music teacher. For some reason, I thought it was appropriate to announce my eternal hatred of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Poor R just meekly said "It's one of my favorite books." And then I had to erupt into a Julia Sugarbaker style tirade. Don't jump to conclusions. I love every other poem by Shel Silverstein (and what a great name for a children's poet). All I wanted as a child was to get Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends. I have the Hug O' War as a tattoo for God's sake. So yes I love Shel Silverstein. I just hate The Giving Tree. It's Shel Silverstein's Lorax. It's the book of unabashed gloopy sentimentality from a writer with a wickedly evil sense of humor. And moreover, it's the biggest ode to co-dependence I have ever read in my life.

What happens in The Giving Tree? There's this little boy and this big tree. The boy climbs the tree and plays in it and he and the tree are each others' best friend. As he gets older he asks the tree to give him things. First apples to sell in town and make a living. And then branches to build a house. And then a goddamned trunk to build a canoe. And finally, after giving up its apples, branches, and trunk, the BOY STILL ASKS THE TREE FOR SOMETHING. He whines that he's old and just needs a place to sit so the tree offers up its stump for him to rest his ass on. Every stanza ends with:

And so he did and
Oh, the trees was happy.
Oh, the tree was glad.

What kind of horseshit is that? This boy asks and asks and asks and the Tree gives and gives and gives and the boy doesn't do a goddamned thing for it. No weeding, no fertilizer, no watering. It's all take, take, take. He could have planted a few apple seeds to grow other trees. He could have taken only the dead branches. But NOOOOO he takes it all. All the apples. All the branches and all the trunk. And he wants more. And the tree was happy and glad. Not effing likely. The boy was probably telling the tree that it could do no better than to have an immature taker as its buddy. And so the tree didn't know it could probably let its apples fall to the ground and create saplings to support it as it got older. It didn't know that it could just let a dead branch fall on the boy's noggin to keep him from sawing off the branches. But it was probably so beaten down by a boy that paid attention to it only when he needed something that it didn't think it could do better. I bet you there was probably another tree in the woods that wanted to pollinate the Giving Tree's blossoms and they could make saplings together and have a whole orchard, but the stupid, selfish boy took away the tree's branches so no blossoms could form.

And so he did and
Oh, the trees was happy.
Oh, the tree was glad.

Happy and glad my ass.


Anonymous said...

Hilarious and sad. But The Giving Tree is soooooo not The Lorax. And the back of that book scared the bepoops out of me.

Stef said...

I actually do like this book - I was always taught that the relationship represents the love of a parent for a child. The child should feel comforted knowing that his parent (the tree) will always be there to support him and provide for him, whatever his need. Sure, the kids do need to grow into a more mutual relationship as they get older, but I've always liked the idea of the unconditional love and nurturing.

ScottE. said...

never read it, so I have no opinion on this story, but i do like his other poems.

playfulinnc said...

Interesting. Not to get all Jesus on your ass, but I am reminded of the way my family raised me...give them whatever they need, you coat, your last dollar, your house.

My mother is the queen of this, and although she is a wonderful makes me mad.

Martyrdom makes me mad.

DC Food Blog said...

Playfulinnc, YEAH! Martyrdom is pretty damn irritating. Stef, if this represents the relationship between a child and a parent, it's telling you to cut off your parent's hair, and then their arms and then their head and sit on the decapitated neck. :) I hope readers get I am mocking my own crazy ass outrage as much as I am mocking The Giving Tree.

Jon said...

the real question: did you make R cry?

Brunette said...

I'm partial to "The Missing Piece" myself...

You left out the part that bothered little 7-year-old Brunette the most: when the boy left, and the tree's branches drooped - you could just about hear the quiet little sobs.