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The Giving Tree: Bad Book or Worst Book?

Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:41
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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:


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