The Giving Tree

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The Giving Tree by Mind Map: The Giving Tree

1. Individual Project

2. By: Shel Silverstein

3. Situation and Setting

3.1. In his poem “The Giving Tree”, Shel Silverstein uses the setting of a forest to add meaning to his poem. The poem was written in 1966 (Holmes and Galchen) so the setting was impacted by the culture of the time. As time continues on, the world has grown farther from nature, making the tree more suitable for a time when nature was what a child knew. By using a forest, Silverstein was appropriately able to make a connection between a tree and a boy because that was more valid than a television set during the time the poem was written. Today, children are more interested in their video games than creating a fort from sticks in their yards. In contrast, in 1966, children were outside from dawn til dusk playing with whatever they could find. If the poem was written today, rather than when it was written, the children’s poem would have a harder time connecting to children because of the use of an outside setting. A more meaningful impact would have been found in the setting of a child’s bedroom because that’s where they are more apt to be found in modern society. Katherine Paterson uses setting similarly in her novel, Bridge to Terabithia. The novel was written in 1977, well before the xbox 360 or PS4. Paterson also uses a forest as her setting that leads to a pair of friends using their imagination to build a kingdom among the tress. Forty years later, she probably would have written the text placed in a virtual world, because that’s what her audience knows. Overall, Silverstein analyzed who his audience was and found a suitable setting for the time his piece was written. The setting fit the culture of the then society. Today, Silverstein’s book is still appreciated, but children are less likely to be able to connect to the setting, because it’s not what they know.

3.1.1. SLO 1 and SLO 4

4. Visual Imagery & Figures of Speech- Personification

4.1. Personification is a necessary figure of speech used in the poem “The Giving Tree”. The story is based upon a tree who befriends a boy and her only wish is to make him happy. Not only can she talk and act in a human nature, she also feels and loves like a human. Without her emotions, the poem could not be possible. In the poem, the tree becomes incredibly attached to the boy. It is even written many times that “…she loved the little boy,” (Line 2). Together, they would play games and the boy would swing on her limbs. When the boy grew up through life, he stayed away from the tree and this caused her to become very upset and lonely (line 15-17). Ultimately, the tree gives away everything she has so that the boy can be happy. The use of an inanimate object to add emotion and add to the theme was crucial to the poem. It’s one thing for a mother or a friend to have emotions about another human, because human emotions are strong and what separates them from others. By having a nonhuman object- a tree, something that people take for granted- possess emotion for a child is powerful. By having something that is typically unappreciated and who cannot love itself love a person creates strong emotional appeal. If it was just a mother trying to make her son always happy, it would mean less because that’s what a mother is supposed to do. The personification also adds to the theme of be generous, but don’t give away everything you have because the tree is all the tree has. It’s branches, its trunk, its apples, its leaves. The tree gave all of these things, all it had, to make the boy happy (lines 80-81). If this was a person, they have so many more things and not just the clothes on their back, so it would be less meaningful.

4.1.1. SLO 3

5. Symbolism

5.1. The tree is the most obvious symbol in this poem. As this particular poem concerns, the tree seems to simply symbolize a person. It acts and thinks like a person, it has limbs (branches), leaves (hair), and wants to play. One step deeper, the tree seems to symbolize a mother and what she would do for her child. The tree has the physical aspects of a human, such as limbs, a trunk, and leaves for hair, but the tree also possess apples- another correlation to being a mother. Eve can be considered the mother of humankind. It was from her that all others were born. The downfall of Eve was when she ate the apple from the tree and caused her and Adam to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. As a tree with apples, when one falls, it can be planted in the ground to form another apple tree, just like how women give birth to new life. The tree also does anything to make the boy happy. When the boy comes saying he wants money, the tree says she doesn’t have any money, but the boy can “Take [her] apples…and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy,” (lines 31-33). When the boy wants a house, she tells him to build one with her branches, and when the boy wants a boat, she tells him to take her trunk, and finally, when the boy just wants a place to sleep, she offers the boy her stump. This is much like what a mother would do for her child. If a mother does not have something that would make her child happy, she sacrifices what she does have so the child can be happy. A final connection is the timeline of the poem. When the boy is young, he spends almost every day with the tree . As the boy gets older, he spends less and less time with the tree, and she misses him while she is gone (line 15-17). Such as a son lives at home and then moves out and sees much less of his mother, so does the boy to the tree.

5.1.1. SLO 2

6. Visual Imagery & Figures of Speech- Metaphor

6.1. The poem is basically an extended metaphor for the theme it is attempting to form. There are two themes in the poem. One is that generosity is wonderful, but you can’t give away everything you have and you must think of yourself too. The second is the enduring love of a mother. The use of a metaphor to express the themes of the poem is valuable because the poem was written for children. When a child reads a book, they are looking for pictures and characters they can relate to. If Silverstein had blatantly written about the same themes but with an actual mother and son and used more complex words, a child wouldn’t be able to understand what was happening. The fact that Silverstein also draws on imagination is a key as well. Young children have valiant imaginations that they use to create vast fantasies and explore what is beyond reality. The child makes a friend with a tree (lines 1-14), which is clearly unrealistic. This speaks to the mind of young children and makes the poem much more interesting to them. Also, parental figures are what a child just accepts are who they love and that they should not take for granted. They are also unable to comprehend what a mother would really do for her child- that knowledge comes with maturing. So if Silverstein hadn’t used a metaphor, his audience wouldn’t be able to truly understand his message as they would with it hidden in the metaphor.

6.1.1. SLO 3 and SLO 2 (Culture of what a mother's role entails and the culture of too much generosity)

7. Big Idea Question #3

7.1. Analyze the masculine and feminine gender roles in the poem, comparing the way they view their actions and their love story based off of their biological and psychological makeup that is most definitely gender specific.

7.1.1. Throughout the poem, there are many instances where the tree (the female) and the boy (the male) have specific roles they take on. These roles are not obvious, but it is because of their gender that they have these specific roles. The tree takes on a feminine role between her care for the boy and her friendship and the boy takes on a masculine role because of his familial drive and how he plays. The tree is a very feminine character. Even if Silverstein hadn’t referred to the tree as “she” (line 2) , the actions of her would represent her true self. First is how she interacts as a friend to the young boy. While the child is playing and climbing on her, she just sits back and watches, similar to a young girl. As the boy grows older, the tree takes on a motherly role toward the boy. When the boy comes and, much to the tree’s dismay, doesn’t want to play, but rather is realizing life’s struggles . Rather than take offense, the tree understands and offers the boy everything she can to make his life better (lines 19-33). The fact she is a caregiver is a very feminine role. Conversely, the boy has a very masculine role. The young child liked to play on the tree- climb her trunk, swing from her branches (lines 7-9) - such as a rambunctious young male likes to do. He also comes to the tree saying he wants a boat (line 66), much like many older men would like to have. As the boy grows older, he takes on a role in which he seems himself as someone who needs to provide for the family. He wants money to provide with and a home to keep his family protected. These are all similar to those roles of which a father or husband has for a family.