Except, it really does seem like love is supposed to be a two-way street. If the tree is supposed to symbolize a parent, it's a terrible message for the kid. ("Your parents exist only to serve you, then die!") If it's supposed to symbolize any other kind of relationship, it's a terrible message for a future adult. ("Eventually, something will come along that bleeds you dry, and that's just how it is!") Without reciprocation, "love" is the perfect recipe for abuse, and The Giving Tree is clearly an example of abuse, because the boy in the story does not give one hammered shit about the tree.
Harper & Row
"What do you think I am, a MONEY tree? HAHA ... ha ... *sniff*
Oh god, love me! *sob*"
The two spend a lot of time together when the boy is young, but as soon as he starts getting interested in girls, he ditches the tree and fucks right off, only appearing later to ask for money. Because trees do not carry cash, the tree gives him apples to sell. More years pass with the boy nowhere to be seen. Then, he reappears asking for branches to build a house, presumably after taking a massive wash on the apple market.
Harper & Row
You're being an enabler, tree!
Finally, all that's left of the tree is its trunk, on which the boy, now an old man, comes waddling up to park his flabby ass in some shade. The book ends by saying that the tree was happy, and we're supposed to feel good about the fact that the little boy spent his entire life depleting the tree and never doing anything for it in return.
We suppose it's supposed to be about the joy of selflessness or something, but it really does seem like insisting that the tree was happy is like insisting that an 18th-Century woman trapped in a brutal arranged marriage was happy -- they didn't have any other choice, so they forced themselves to smile through their hopeless situation and wait for the sweet release of death. The Giving Tree is the picture book version of that.
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