Shel Silverstein, the author of children’s book who was part-beatnik and part-pedo-creep, wrote some funny stuff. His poems and stories were warped, sometimes innocent and sometimes painfully ironic. But this enigmatic guy is responsible for one of the most dangerous pieces of literature ever written in modern times, The Giving Tree.
Nevertheless, The Giving Tree is loved by the educational community. Teachers swoon when they hear its title “The Giving Tree” uttered, as if they’ve been transported into a higher state of warm fuzziness. Gullible adults believe the book teaches high and noble things like motherhood and friendship. The dark philosophy at the roots of The Giving Tree is one of self-destruction; the sacrifice of oneself for another who can’t reciprocate, and the subordination of self-interest to a child’s self-absorbed quest for satisfaction through the destruction of the only one who loves him.
I really hate this book.
The heroine of this story was a lovely apple tree, sturdy with thick branches and heavy with fruit. The little boy whom she loved climbed up her trunk, shook her branches, and played with her leaves when they fell to the ground. He ate her apples, all of them. He played in her shade, and in the beginning, he returned her generosity with his loyal company.
The boy went away, and one can only assume that he was indoctrinated by leftist Parisians while sitting in a sidewalk cafe and marveling about his ability to alter reality with his thoughts. He then returned to the tree a little older, feeling entitled because of his acquired elitism, to the all the tree possessed.
In a surly mood the boy stood at the foot of the tree and demanded money. The tree answered that she had no money to give him, but that he could take her apples, all of them, and sell them for money. The tree supposed that if she pleased the boy by giving him something of value, he would reciprocate with his company and love. And this made her very happy. Stupid frigging tree.
The boy went away again, and one can only assume he became a professor of Political Science at some commie lib university where he spent his days marveling about his ability to alter the minds of young people through his manipulation of rhetoric. He returned to the tree after a long time, embittered, angry, and feeling entitled to all the tree possessed because he had needs, and he was a poly-sci professor at a prestigious university, and an oppressed member of the effeminate male minority.
Later on he demanded that the tree give him a house. The tree answered that she had no house to give him, but that he could cut off her branches and use the wood to build a house for himself, his deranged hippie wife, and his depressed, drug-addled children. The tree supposed that if she gave him something of value, that he would reciprocate with his company and love. This made the idiot frigging tree very happy. She obviously didn’t understand that the little boy had grown up to be an evil man.
So the bitter evil man went away again for a very long time, and he came back an aging, Marxist radical troll. One can only assume that he wrote books about despair, the meaninglessness of life, and the evil incantations of his career as a destroyer of the minds of young people. Shriveled with self-loathing he stood at the foot of the limbless, fruitless, demoralized tree and demanded that she provide for him a boat so he could sail far away. One can only assume that his self-loathing drove him to seek refuge from the realization in his old age that he was an irredeemable monster. The tree answered that she had no boat to give him, but that he could cut down her trunk and make a boat for himself. The evil man cut down the trunk of the tree and made himself a boat. The tree, with no sense of self, no sense of pride, and nothing left of herself to proud of, tried to convince herself that her sacrifice to the demands of a parasitic man had made her happy. One can only assume that the tree had a flicker of reasoning when she determined, for a brief moment, that she really was not happy at all.
The embittered old man went away in his boat to Perdition. One can only assume that while on the cruise to escape his self-loathing, that he marveled how his life had been cheated by those who loved him, and how the tree was the source of his unhappiness because, despite the fact that she stupidly sacrificed her very existence for his comfort and pleasure from the time he was a boy, it simply was not enough. He returned after a very long time, shrunken, toothless, and dejected. He asked feebly for a place to sit, and the tree; nothing more than a sterile stump, its life used by a man who could not love, its substance exploited for his whims, acquiesced to this last demand. And guess what, the freakin’ enabler, victimized, pathetic tree was very happy.
I really, really hate this book.
The Giving Tree perpetuates two evils: This first evil is the brazen little boy who lays claim on the property of one that loves him. He demands that the tree give everything to him. He produces nothing himself, but takes all the tree posesses. He does not reciprocate and he cannot love. But because the tree enables his mooching lifestyle, and feels guilt at the very thought of him going without, she delivers all she has into his hands to be squandered.
The second, and greater evil, is the tree itself. The tree, a marvel of creation with differentiated cells and structures that perform the miraculous process of turning sunlight into food, with her strong limbs, pretty leaves, and fruit, perfect in both form and composition, disregards herself as a thing of value. She submits her past, present, and future potential to the demands of an indolent man-boy. She allows all she possesses to be abused, ignoring the fact that her ability to produce shade, leaves, and fruit, and her own achievement is wasted by an exploiter who will likely do the same to every other tree he meets.
The Giving Tree is evil because this is its alleged model for human happiness. The truth is, this is the model for human hell.
I really, really, really hate this book. And if you love your children, take this book give it a big dose of Agent Orange.
By Marjorie Haun 10/25/14