Why "The Giving Tree" is One Messed Up Book
Now, if you are one of the 5 people who has heard me rant about this in lecture feel free to turn away now.
Otherwise, listen up.
I try really hard not to get all judgey when it comes to books. As a person who reads nearly everything I know that the appeal of a story is so intimately ensconced in ones personage that it is nearly impossible to detangle why you love some stories so much. Maybe it was Who read them to you, maybe it was Where you found the book, maybe the love of your life (you know, the one to whom you finally said yes to anal?) just dumped you for the skank down the hall and the only reason you did not fling yourself from the top of the dorm was that Danielle Steel novel.
I don't need to know - well, maybe about the anal - but that is a whole different blog post.
I do not like The Giving Tree. When I come across papers of Undergrads who wax poetically about the beauty of this book, I want to give them a shake. If I were to meet these individuals:
I would flee in terror. ( I would also take aside any romantic partner of these simpletons and tell them to run far, far, away...)
Now the why: Yes, I get that the Tree "loves" the boy. I get for some people that this is some kind of metaphor for Mother love. For others it may denote some kind of romantic love, the all giving selflessness of archetypal L-O-V-E.
Both ideas are shit. At least if you are beyond that age of 10.
The tree in this book - a feminine voice - gets all kinds of fucked. She gets disassembled - literally. She gives everything. She gets stripped down to the barest of entities...then gets sat upon.
The boy? I know this boy, don't you? The one who comes back when he needs something? The one who liked you enough to have sex with ( as long as no one else knew about it) - but not enough to date? The father/brother/cousin/friend who wants you to loan him money, or drive him around when he lost his license because of DUI ( which was most likely the fault of some cunt, amiright?) - and if you dare to say no...Good Luck, sister.
This boy is entitled.
This boy will rape if he can get away with it, and then blame the victim of his rape. This boy will tell the police how his wife MADE him punch her, because she wouldn't shut the fuck up. This boy will tell his daughter that it is her fault when he rapes her.
This boy will start a war, then make up lies as to why he did it. This boy will steal from the vulnerable and then tell you it was their fault for being stupid. This boy will deny climate change, despite scientific proof. This boy will feel he has the right and obligation to tell other people how to live - who to love, how to express their sexuality, and if they should control their reproductive systems.
If I taught this boy in a preschool classroom ( and I have), I would spend a great deal of time teaching him how to consider the feelings of others. Most likely his parents have told him that he is special beyond imagination. They have praised leadership in his character, when it is, in fact, bullying.
I would watch him closely - and this would make him very uncomfortable. He doesn't like to be watched, because then you might see that he is doing things - things that are not acceptable, poking his friends until they lash out, then crying to you for being hit. Taking things from other peoples lunch. Pocketing other peoples toys. Kicking over other peoples block structures.
This boy doesn't understand when an adult doesn't buy his bullshit. It has always worked before, after all.
The tree never says No to this boy. She gives, and gives and gives. Long past the point of pain, long past the point of being able to survive.
What is this saying to our children - when we read them this book, with love in our voices?
Are we saying: "I will do this for you"?
Are we saying: "If you love someone YOU should do this for Them?"
Are we saying: "If a woman loves you enough, she will give you everything that she is, no questions asked?"
Are we saying: "A boy you love should strip you down to nothing, and you should be grateful he comes back?"
I call bullshit.
And that is why I do not like the Giving Tree.
(perhaps later I will write "Why "I love you Forever" really creeps me out)
Writer, Thinker, Nap-Taker and almost Doctor of Education