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Although this book has been discussed thoroughly,
when my friend and colleague, John Bishop, sent me his
sensitive and thoughtful analysis of the book,
I thought the group might enjoy reading it.

 ------ Forwarded Message Follows -------
To:                     berdoshs
Subject:                Re: (Fwd) Re: Giving Tree
Send reply to:          bishopj@high.mtps.com
Date sent:              Wed, 21 Apr 1999 18:44:50 -0600

OK, Selena.  Your point is well-taken...I understand...and agree.

When I first read this book, I must admit I was moved nearly to
tears.  I empathized with both characters...the forsaken yet
steadfast woman-tree who offers unconditional love...and the
unrecognizing, searching boy-man who, at last, finds the peace
and companionship he desperately sought there waiting.  The often
conflicting feelings of love, dependence, and independence
intertwined throughout the story were brought to an almost
overwhelming emotional level as I read the final words of the
characters' bittersweet reunion.  I imagined not only myself...but a
universal constant of human relationships...in these characters.
God and (wo)man...wife and husband...parent and child...all
embarking on a painful journey of desire and discovery...to end,
hopingly, in recognition and respect.

I feel that many people who read this story are initially moved at
this emotional level...leaving them with admiration for the woman-
tree...wistfully hoping there will be someone like this for them (or
wishing they could be like this for someone they love)...and
sympathy for the boy-man...projecting themselves and their all-to-
human desires onto that searching soul.

But then there are those who go beyond the initial impact and
consider the deeper meanings of the story and its characters.
They see the emotional glow as sexist subterfuge to be stripped
away...exposing the unseemly undercurrents of selfishness and
self-deprecation.  The woman-tree is an enabler...inappropriately
optimistic and void of self-respect.  The boy-man is a user...selfish
and disrespectful.  The message of the story spoils from affirmation
to depression...abhorrent to all ideals of fairness and social justice.

So...for those open to it...The Giving Tree touches the reader on
two distinct emotional levels.  One can be moved and motivated by
the first...but can be occluded and outraged by the second.

Perhaps a tangential level, more intellectual than emotional, is the
consideration of the author's intent.  It is difficult to imagine Mr.
Silverstein's intent as to turn a simple tale of unconditional
love...unaware of his creation's social undercurrents.  Then, is it
sufficient to conclude that he was fully aware of both the emotional
impact and social undercurrents...using them for the seemingly evil
purpose of passing a "bad" message for "good"? (Brian Burrell in
the May/June 1999 issue of American Heritage seems to take this
view, stating "This overrated picture book thus presents as a
paradigm for young children a callously exploitive human
relationship - both across genders and across generations.")  Or,
can we allow ourselves to consider his intent a step further...to
suppose not social evil but intellectual maliciousness?  Perhaps he
intended to create a literary vehicle...complete with an increasingly
murky mix of emotion and meaning...to incrementally engage the
reader...and move those open to it, by personal and public
reflection, discussion, and possible division, to a deeper
consideration of the duality or even multiplicity of sometimes
conflicting perspectives in which we view the content and value of
human relationships and experiences.

Certainly, the last is a quite large step to take.  However if this was
Mr. Silverstein's intent, then, as evidenced by our on-going
discussions of his controversial work, he has surely succeeded.

Selena Berdosh
Moorestown HS Media Center
Moorestown, NJ  USA

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