Child as Site of Adult Desire: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

In the short poem The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein directly uses the life journey of the boy in the story to act as a representation of how a relationship continuously adjusts to the different obstacles that are presented to an individual at different points in their lives. In the beginning the tree simply provides a source of entertainment to keep the boy free of boredom. (Play “king of the forest, climb and swing from branches). As he gets older, the boy begins to spend more and more time away from the tree, only coming back when he is in need of something. Towards the end of the story, the boy is so old that he no longer has the energy to make use of anything the tree has to offer and the tree has nothing left but a stump- which the tree offers as a place to rest. The stump serves as a representation of how the tree still desires to maintain a relationship with the old boy regardless of the fact that she has nothing left to offer to the boy. The idea of this story symbolizes how relationships can seem to become weaker over time because of the different obstacles that life presents you with, but with the will and desire, you can still maintain those valuable friendships/relationships.

Silverstein, Shel, Shel Silverstein, and Publishers Row. The Giving Tree. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Print.


The Giving Tree

One thought on “Child as Site of Adult Desire: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

  1. I think what you’re getting at is a little more along the line of the story’s moral or point. I mean it’s not so far away from the desire. But the fantasy here is that the boy CAN always come back, that he ALWAYS has a right to the tree, that the tree can ALWAYS muster more, and that giving until you have nothing left is really the right and wonderful thing to do in relationship with some man.

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