Ayn Rand

The Giving Tree: Bad Book or Worst Book?

Vandals in California are chopping up trees in imitation of the most-blatantly misogynistic book in all kids' lit in imitation of Shel Silverstein's classic.

|

Entertainment Weekly, Reddit

Entertainment Weekly reports on unseemly acts of eco-terrorism in Oakland, California: Somebody is chopping up perfectly good trees to mirror the selfless act of the titular character in Shel Silverstein's classic 1964 picture book, The Giving Tree.

Let's not mince words. Written by a Playboy mansion habitue and composer of "A Boy Named Sue," The Giving Tree is about a female tree that literally gives up every aspect of her existence to please a spoiled, uncaring boy. By the end of the volume, the tree is reduced to a stump where the boy, now an old man, can park his ass. Decades past the Sexual Revolution, it's damn nigh impossible to read The Giving Tree as anything other than sublimated male anxiety over the rising tide of unfettered feminine sexuality and freedom. Wouldn't it be great, the book effectively asks, if women on the cusp of societal emancipation, would sacrifice every aspect of their being for jerk guys?

You don't have to be an Ayn Rand fan to read the book this way (though it helps). In 2013, Reason interviewed novelist Arin Greenwood about her excellent YA title Save the Enemy, in which the teenage girl protagonist is searching for her kidnaped father, a weirdo with libertarian sensibilities.

From the book:

Your dad probably read you books like The Giving Tree when you were a kid. My dad did read me The Giving Treeonce, calling it "evil" in that it "promotes the immoral destruction of the self." (I was four.) He preferred Atlas Shrugged, which is basically about how rich people shouldn't pay taxes. He has explained to me a lot over the course of my seventeen years that taxes are "slavery."

Though no libertarian herself, Greenwood nonetheless told us, "Personally, I am a little creeped out by The Giving Tree."

As are we all, Ms. Greenwood, as are we all.

Watch The Giving Tree vs. Ayn Rand: YA Author Arin Greenwood on Save the Enemy:

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

71 responses to “The Giving Tree: Bad Book or Worst Book?

  1. I initially read that as Y.A. Tittle Save the Enemy, not as YA (young adult) TITLE Save the Enemy. Anyone else make that mistake?

    1. Y.A. Tittle was my nickname in college.

    2. I read it the same way. I thought it was interesting that someone had written a novel about the star-crossed quarterback.

  2. Fictional Self Abnegated; Women Hardest Hit

  3. “Decades past the Sexual Revolution, it’s damn nigh impossible to read The Giving Tree as anything other than sublimated male anxiety over the rising tide of unfettered feminine sexuality and freedom.”

    *runs to double check what the word ‘impossible’ means*

    1. The meaning of the book has been debated for over 50 years. It is safe to say that Gillespie’s bizarre interpretation is a minority view. Yet, “it’s damn nigh impossible” to think about the book any other way.

      More anything, Gillespie is a dolt. He doesn’t even make a good English major.

    2. Is Gillespie having a midlife crisis which is dredging up some memories of horrible classes he took in college?

      It is a story of selfless love in which the human charater comes off as an ungrateful jerk. I am not sure there is any point in bringing in the over the top feminist criticism. Though frankly there are a number of children’s stories with questionable praise for self destructive altruism to them

      1. The better question about this book is why write children’s books with such vague meanings? The book is for children. Whatever its meaning, it ought to be easily grasped. I am okay with kids’ books being dark. The world is a dark place and kids know that sometimes better than adults. But, this book always struck me as pointlessly depressing almost to the point of nihilism. What is the point here? At the end of the book, the tree is just as selfless and the boy is just as big of a selfish jerk. No one learns anything or changes. To me a book whose characters never grow or change is the definition of a bad book.

        1. To me a book whose characters never grow or change is the definition of a bad book.

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          1. Is there anything you don’t get wrong Mary? What does the guy do at the end of the booK? He sits on the stump of the tree. He never expresses any regret or awareness of how badly he has treated the tree. Meanwhile, the tree never understands how badly it is treated and is only happy once the guy sits on the stump.

            It is in some ways enlightening to deal with you, though a bit disturbing. I have never really been around someone who is legitimately mentally ill. You understand the story in a superficial way but don’t quite get there. You think the fact that the tree was cut down and the guy got old means “change” in the sense I was talking about. Your mind works but it doesn’t work in the ways a normal mind does. You are a great example of why even the most talented actors can’t fake mental illness.

            1. John. The reason I was laughing is that you are a character who never changes.

              1. Says the trollish entity that could not possibly pass a Turing Test.

                1. Says the trollish entity that could not possibly pass a Turing Test.

                  I’m not the one bitching about lack of character development, am I?

              2. Real life isn’t fiction.

                1. Real life isn’t delusional paranoia either, but let’s not quibble.

      2. It is a story of selfless love in which the human charater comes off as an ungrateful jerk.

        You should re-read the ending.

        1. My recollection of it was the tree only ever wanted him to spend time in her company. He only does so wgen ge old tured and needs a place to sit.

          1. Yeah. And they have a happy ending together. The tree is happy at the end, just to feel his old ass sitting on her.

            Because that’s how fucking pathetic Shel Silverstein thinks women are.

            1. Yes, but he is not doing it for any considerarion for what the tree wants, it is only because it happens to align with his wants at the moment

          2. Don’t feed the troll.

          3. Don’t feed the troll.

            1. But do feed the squirrels.

      3. “It is a story of selfless love in which the human charater comes off as an ungrateful jerk. I am not sure there is any point in bringing in the over the top feminist criticism. Though frankly there are a number of children’s stories with questionable praise for self destructive altruism to them” I agree with this 100%. I could read a green moral in the book, for exemple.

      4. “Though frankly there are a number of children’s stories with questionable praise for self destructive altruism to them” It’s weird to think that just women are victims of this. Honestly, a lot aren’t, and some are the opposite. ^^

  4. Written by a Playboy mansion habitue and composer of “A Boy Named Sue,”

    Don’t forget this gem.

    1. Like a boy named Sue wouldn’t get the $#it kicked out of even in these woke times.

    2. “Sue” is not short for Susan. He is named after the verb.

  5. You don’t have to be an Ayn Rand fan SJW to read the book this way (though it helps).

  6. A great many of the Progressive Left’s favorite children’ books strike me as incredibly creepy. THE GIVING TREE is a perfect example, but I have vague memories of butting into enough to establish a general impression. The last few books by Dr. Seuss spring to mind.

    It doesn’t get better as the kids get into the age to read books without pictures. School approved reading skews towards works with Moral Teachings (while the Progressives would be highly indignant to be compared to the author of ERIC, OR LITTLE BY LITTLE). I remember reading about a ‘crisis in education’ having to do with how few children read. My immediate thought was, “Well, maybe if you stopped trying to get them to read tiresome books of thinly disguised sermons, you wouldn’t HAVE this problem”, which point was underlined by the runaway surprise success of the Harry Potter books, and the explosion of kids adventure stories that followed.

    The intellectual snobs are no doubt wringing their hands, but I’m happier with children reading tripe like TWILIGHT than not reading at all because all they have been shown is collectivist Progressive twaddle that (worse than propagandizing them) bores them silly.

    1. I feel the same way. It’s like when various conservatives got their panties in a twist about kids reading JK Rowling rather than approved and better classics from the past. Harry Potter may not be high art but it is vastly preferable to the pile of leftist garbage that is most young adult reading.

      1. The thing that gets ME about the “Classic from the past” idea is that it has kids trying to read novels written in Victorian English. Now, the vocabulary isn’t all that different (though it IS different), but the rhythms are VERY different. I’ve bounced off of Sickens several times (excepting A CHRISTMAS CHAROL). I managed THE BLACK ARROW, and THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE (which is almost written in modern cadences). I slogged through DRACULA. THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE totally defeated me, largely because I didn’t give a fat damn about any of the characters.

        These are adult novels, written in a very different culture, and yet editions of them come out every year for “Young Adults”

        I can think of no faster way to convince a teenager that reading is a pain in the ass.

        1. You want faster? Try making them read “Wuthering Heights”. What a total waste of paper.

    2. Like “The Rainbow Fish” which condemns the Sin of Pride by catering to the Sin of Envy, which makes the thing a moral muddle.

  7. Watch out Nick, there are people here whose tribal identity demands they regard with suspicion any notion that women’s liberty has something to do with liberty.

    1. What does that have to do with Nick not understanding the meaning of the book?

    2. So you differentiate “women’s liberty” from everyone else’s liberty and the tribalists are the one’s who don’t differentiate, not you. I forgot how difficult the whole self-awareness thing is for you. How is the fight for equality coming, Hazel? Still being forced to slave away in the kitchen and barred from entering the labor force?

      1. Hazel is angry at all of the tribalists who don’t give her tribe the proper respect. Hazel is not big on self-awareness or these days sanity.

      2. So you differentiate “women’s liberty” from everyone else’s liberty

        This is the exact opposite of what Hazel was doing.

        But you know that.

        1. there are people here whose tribal identity demands they regard with suspicion any notion that women’s liberty has something to do with liberty.

          Try reading words as written. Though I’m willing to bet the farm that you don’t have a rational theory of liberty in your head to begin with, so I’m not sure why I bother with a scumbag troll like yourself.

          1. When I read the words as written, I see that Hazel believes women’s liberty is part of liberty writ large, and that she is accusing some other people of not believing that, due to their tribal identities as fucking yokels.

            1. This.
              OMG, Nick said something bad about a book on the basis that it assumes women should sacrifice themselves for others! That’s SJW craziness! Feminism! Bad! Grrr!

              1. That’s something Mary would say or are you Weigel?

      3. Barefoot and pregnant, too.

        1. And everyone knows raising children and keeping a home is not real labor or of any value.

  8. I didn’t get much other than something something misogynistic and the observation that the librarian look never gets old.

  9. “Decades past the Sexual Revolution, it’s damn nigh impossible to read The Giving Tree as anything other than sublimated male anxiety over the rising tide of unfettered feminine sexuality and freedom. Wouldn’t it be great, the book effectively asks, if women on the cusp of societal emancipation, would sacrifice every aspect of their being for jerk guys?” This website is in it worst when it’s writting like a pro free-marked huffington post.

    1. Gillespie and all of the staff are to one degree or another cultural leftists. Some more so than others but all of them have leftist cultural sensibilities. And none of them seem to be aware of how much that affects their opinions and writing.

      1. Yeah, the idea that people, including women, should live their lives as self-actualizing egoists is a “cultural left” concept.
        Sure.

        Have you ever actually read Ayn Rand?

        1. I also like to use straws to troll others, mate. ^^

        2. Did you ever read Sean Gabb?

        3. I read a short story by Ayn Rand that was strangle like “The Giving Tree”.

          It was about a woman who worked hard putting helping put her husband through school and setying up his career because she recognized his innate talents destined him for great things. Once he was on his way to success, she left him so he could marry up to someone more inkerping eith his new social status while she admired him from afar.

          I found it utterly baffling.

  10. The Giving Tree as anything other than sublimated male anxiety over the rising tide of unfettered feminine sexuality and freedom

    *finger snap applause*

    Far out, man, I don’t remember the tree as being female, but ok.

    1. Give it a re-read. The tree is called “she” throughout.

      1. It’s been years and years since I read it. Now that you mention it, I recall that. It’s interesting how that didn’t percolate to the top of my perceptions of the book. The sex… wait… the gender of the… yeah, the gend… the identified gender of the tree was probably an incidental… to me.

        1. To me too. I have read the book many times, and never gave any consideration to the “gender” of the tree. I always thought that the book was horribly depressing. If needled to come up with a deeper meaning, I guess deforestation may have come to mind when I was a kid, but even that’s a reach.

    2. I guess I always saw the tree as Taxpayer and the boy as public sector.

      1. More as child and parent. A really pathetic parent raising an incredibly spoiled child.

        1. A type of the standard Boomer childhood.

  11. So the vile book must be rejected as heteronormative?

  12. That shit don’t fly in California.

    In California, you give tree.

  13. Somebody is chopping up perfectly good trees…
    Enough about a old book, where’s the “chopping up trees” part of the story?

  14. The most misogynistic kids’ book? That makes no sense at all. Turn it around. A male tree gives and gives and gives for a little girl. Would you call that man-hating? And? IT’S A TREE. What are we supposed to think, that but for the giving the tree would have gone on to a life of feminist fulfillment? That but for the book, lots of girls were steered in the wrong direction? Wouldn’t the real problem be then that females are so easily manipulated that we have to walk on eggshells around them?

    And women, frankly, give. There’s a reason why we boggle when we see some beautiful woman giving and giving and giving for some toad that we think doesn’t deserve her. There’s a reason why on Friends when Joey is only pleasing his girlfriend in bed, she gasps, “You’re a giver…you’re practically a woman.” There’s a reason why Dorothy Parker wrote, “Woman lives but in her lord…count to ten and man is bored.”

    Every so often people seem wackily determined to try to attract people to libertarianism by showing how X they are– in this case, substitute “feminist” for X. It’s just nuts.

  15. If the tree were a “he” would you feel the same way? Maybe the sexism is in the readers view.

    1. Snowflakes don’t have views of their own.
      They respond as programmed.

  16. Read the book for the first time as a parent.

    Was horrified. It is a horrible message.

    Did not read it a second time.

    Can’t imagine how many times you would have to suffer through that horror to analyze the misogyny. But it is more than one.

  17. Oh, please. The book is about unconditional love. The fact that the tree is female is irrelevant.

    1. Exactly.

  18. You have to be really fucked in the head to read that much into a kid’s story.

  19. It is a story of selfless love in which the human charater comes off as an ungrateful jerk. I am not sure there is any point in bringing in the over the top feminist criticism.iMessage on PC and iMessage for PC

  20. The book is about unconditional love. Zapya for PC and Zapya for windows

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.