The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a great book.
I don’t like it.
I don’t like it for practical reasons. One harvest of apples from one tree will not create wealth. The branches of one tree are not enough to build a house. The trunk of one tree is not enough to build a boat that you can sail away in. Realistically, the tree is not enough to do the things the boy wants to do as he grows older. Finally, once a tree has become a stump, is it still a tree? I think not.
I don’t like it for thematic reasons. The boy never grows as a person. He gets old, but he is still just as selfish. Nothing resolves in this book. The tree gives and the boy takes. Of course, it didn’t start like that. It started in a pure place, went dark, and is left with the devastation of the dark.
Give me Green Eggs and Ham, where we go from not liking a food we have never eaten to trying it and realizing that we do like it! Give me Thy Friend, Obadiah, with a boy who realizes that the bird is his friend, and he is the bird’s friend, too. Maybe that is why I don’t like The Giving Tree, because I wasn’t raised on it.
I don’t like it for personal reasons. The boy is too much like me. The tree is too much like me.
Like the tree, I have had people in my life that I loved and that I enjoyed being around. At first, we enjoyed one another’s company, but after a while they began to take and to take. They have taken all that I have to offer, and, unlike the boy turned old man, they do not desire to sit awhile. I am left as a stump, and they are either out of my life or texting me wanting me to give them more of what I no longer have.
Like the boy, I have taken from others. There are people in my life from whom I have taken their apples, I have taken their branches, I have taken their trunk, and I have left them as a stump. Maybe I will live out my days sitting on the stumps of old friendships. Maybe I will go away and never return. I dislike the boy; he is so much like me.
The Giving Tree does not resolve, it needs something more, but it does not give it to us.
The only way I know to resolve The Giving Tree is with the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus came to save us from ourselves, from the darkness of the world, from the tyranny of The Giving Tree. Jesus saves us from the consequences of our selfishness, from the consequences of giving beyond ourselves. The Giving Tree is about a relationship destroyed, and Jesus is the one who restores. The Giving Tree needs Jesus, and so do I.