The Giving Tree

Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. Illustrated by Shel Silverstein. Harper and Row, 1964. 64 pages.

The Giving Tree both illustrated and written by Shel Silverstein is a story about the concepts of giving and receiving and unconditional love. When a boy was younger, he would visit and play with the tree everyday. He would swing back and forth on her branches and spend time with her whenever he could. As time went on, the little boy grew up. He brought a girl to spend time at the tree, took apples from her to sell for money, took her branches, and eventually took everything from the tree until she was just a stump. The tree would always say that she was still happy when the boy took from her.

And the tree was happy.

There was only one point in time where the tree was no longer happy with the little boy taking from her. She did not have her little boy anymore. She had no branches, apples, or a purpose for her life. She lived for the little boy. She was happy when he was happy. Her goal was to make sure the little boy had everything he needed. The true point of sadness for the tree was marked when the little boy took her trunk and left her for good, or so she thought. Years after he had taken everything from her, he returned as an old man and sat on the stump that he left her as. The tree was truly happy again. She had her purpose back. She had her little boy.

[Ending scene from the story] Retrieved from

Like the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, the author happened to be the illustrator as well. Shel Silverstein was able to create his story exactly as he imagined it. The very simple drawings he used allows the readers to truly focus on the text and message behind the story. The few colors and scenes were simple yes, but the very specific detail put into every image made the story come alive. The emotional scenes of the little boy pulls on the heartstrings of its readers.

[Cover of the story] Retrieved from

The Giving Tree is the perfect example of the universal concept of giving and receiving. The little boy in this story takes and takes from the tree, but the tree does not mind it. She receives love from the little boy. She receives a purpose for her life. The tree takes the role of a maternal figure in this story as well. She would sacrifice anything to make sure the little boy was going to be alright. The tree had unconditional love for the little boy. When children read this book, they will see how taking too much from anyone is a mistake. They will also see the love that the tree gives the little boy. They will see this love from the story in their parents. The sadness of the tree resonates with the readers as well. In terms of philosophy, this story would fall under the category of metaphysics. In this branch, the term “form” is discussed. Some question if the tree is still a tree at the ending of the story. Her “tree-ness” is gone after everything is taken from her. Her form is gone. With that being said, one must appreciate everything he or she has. The unconditional love shown for the by from the tree is something that must be cherished in reality. Sitting around the dinner table as a family is a rarity nowadays. This familial love is something taken for granted. Without that type of love seen in the story, this world would be truly doomed.

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