Unanswered [3] | Urgent [0]
  

Home / Undergraduate   % width Posts: 13

And the boy loved the tree?/ Character in a fiction


christiek 6 / 65  
Sep 1, 2009   #1
4) And the tree was happy. How sad, I used to think. I flipped back through the worn out pages, and noticed the faded black ink and the cranberry juice stain on page fifteen where there was a big white space next to the illustration of the tree. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein has been a short story I have been reading since I was in the third grade. I have grown up with this book, and every time I read it, as I grew older, there were things I didn't understand. I felt ambivalent towards the boy and the tree each time I opened the lime colored book. Sympathizing for the tree, but admiring it. And disappointment towards the boy, but understanding him. It just seemed natural for a while. However, I gained a new perspective of each character at the end that felt right. Moreover, the tree influenced me.

The little boy in the story starts as an innocent character. His desires are simple, but he had many. My innocence and child-likeness was paralleled with the little boy as a child. There are always many requests little kids can have. The first thought I had about the book was, "I wish I had a tree like that." If I had a giving tree, it would have given me everything it had: apples, shade, branches, leaves and even its stump to sit on.

But as time went on and I turned to the book again, a new thought came about the boy. A basic outline of his whole life was organized in one place, and it was easy for me to analyze aspects of his life. The second perspective came into my head, "the boy is selfish." It seemed like the boy only turned to the tree when he needed something and not just because he loves the tree for being the tree. I was annoyed with the little boy. It was interesting because throughout the book, even as the little boy grew older he was still referred to as the boy. He was not the teenager, young adult, grown-up or old man. The tree lived in its own timeless world while the boy grew older and older. There is a danger of narrow-mindedness the boy had. He remained needy as the years passed and there seemed to never be enough of something. But I concluded that I didn't like him.

More time passed, where I was in high school and probably to the time the boy had a girlfriend. And when I read it, a third perspective came in mind, "I want to grow up to be like the giving tree." The tree is a self-less character that is exceptionally patient and gives unconditional love. Unable to move from its lonesome spot, the tree succumbs to people who come to it. It is unable to move. I felt bad for the tree, but I was still attracted to it. I was influenced to become a more compassionate person. While listening to Barack Obama speak while he was still a candidate, he stated, "... we should talk more about our empathy deficit... when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others...it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help." His statement about the country's empathy deficit, made me think about The Giving Tree. The quote opened my mind; I realized the dangers of being narrow-minded like the boy. The tree became my model.
Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 1, 2009   #2
Don't feel that I am beating on you with what I am about to say. I am not saying that you are wrong, but let me tell you how your essay could be received by others ...

My first thought when I read this essay is that you still have a lot of growing to do. It is good that you don't want to be the boy anymore, but the desire to emulate the tree isn't exactly healthy either. Altruism may be taught in many schools as the ideal human state of mind, but selflessness leaves a person, well, without a self. The human condition, when fully realized (self-actualization, if you want to call it that), would require give and take, mutually-beneficial relationships, and personal boundaries. The tree is a doormat. She enables the boy's poor behavior, is not just selfless but self-sacrificing, and in my book (not in a literal sense as I have never written a book for children) is not someone to emulate. The Giving Tree is more of a cautionary tale than anything else. It is a tragedy--for the boy as well as the tree.

Knowing a little bit about Shel Silverstein, I doubt if this was the message he wanted readers to take away from his book. Silverstein had a wry view of things. Ever heard the Johnny Cash song, "25 Minutes to Go"? It is about a man on death row and his last 25 minutes of life (Silverstein was an accomplished musician and won a Grammy for "A Boy Named Sue"--he wrote many songs that became hits). Silverstein was a complex man. He was known for his bawdy songs and life as a playboy--in fact, he wrote for Playboy.

As sunny as your essay is, I feel that there are risks involved with using it with a college application. The odds of having a highly-educated woman who thinks that The Giving Tree preaches that women should be self-sacrificing and subservient to the men in their lives and presents a negative message to the little girls of the world are pretty high. The admission personnel are more likely to see you as young and naive (in part because you chose a character from kiddie lit) as they are to see you as the next Barack Obama. Which brings me to another point: you spend an awful lot of space is an essay about you talking about Barack Obama. You need to be careful in an essay of this length to stick to the topic without introducing tangents.
Llamapoop123 7 / 442  
Sep 1, 2009   #3
As sunny as your essay is, I feel that there are risks involved with using it with a college application.

^This is completely true.

When I first read it (granted that I am not as observant as Noto here) I thought that it was very very interesting and engaging. Perhaps your introduction was not the best thing but the rest of your essay was quite thought provoking. Perhaps it is this thought provoking aspect that brings down your essay as Noto here has demonstrated.

I suggest that you switch the topic (although I liked this story) because comparing yourself to a tree is unwise. A tree has no ambition and its patience far exceeds that of a healthy human being. Giving unconditionally does not create a mutual relationship between you and your friends. What ends up happening is that you will remain resolute and unmoving in life while your associates all move on.
EF_Simone 2 / 1,986  
Sep 1, 2009   #4
Hmmm... I can't read this essay without thinking about my own analysis of that story, which is that nature is presented as existing for the use of people, the tree as the all-giving mother, the boy's heedless use of the tree as perfectly natural, and the reduction of the tree to a stump acceptable rather than tragic. That being the case, I too question your wish to emulate the tree, to be so selflessly giving that you will let people use you up and then thank them for it.
OP christiek 6 / 65  
Sep 1, 2009   #5
Is there a way to work with what I've got, or make a completely new one?

-thank you for all this, i seriously was blind to all of the possible ways people will perceive the essay. it was really interesting reading all your comments :)
Llamapoop123 7 / 442  
Sep 1, 2009   #6
Is there a way to work with what I've got, or make a completely new one?

I would switch topics. It appears that this essay expresses your view on this book for many years so changing it up would require a certain amount of lying.
OP christiek 6 / 65  
Sep 1, 2009   #7
okay, well i did have a brainstorm about the little prince. haha
i love that book too. it's not considered a child's book right?

orrr,
i thought a brainstorm about mersault from the stranger.
i mean i can write about a negative-ish influence and disagree with mersault right? the influence doesnt need to be positive

for some reason i feel so confused..

><
-
Llamapoop123 7 / 442  
Sep 1, 2009   #8
okay, well i did have a brainstorm about the little prince. haha
i love that book too. it's not considered a child's book right?

That book might be a little risky to write about.

the influence doesnt need to be positive

It should effect you in a postive way...you don't want the tone to be entirely negative.

for some reason i feel so confused..

I would be too.
OP christiek 6 / 65  
Sep 1, 2009   #9
haha yeah im not writing about the little prince.

It should effect you in a postive way...you don't want the tone to be entirely negative.

it's not that the essay would be negative as a whole..i dont know, hard to explain..

this is what i wrote a few days ago, and its not done. still working on it.
but i guess this is what i mean about negative-ish..

Life is not the period of existence a living individual organism has to succeed. Life is a terminal illness that has a 99.9% mortality rate. The protagonist, Mersault, of the fictional novel titled The Stranger by Albert Camus, thoroughly believes that there is no purpose to life. The mundane aspects of the world are of course very appealing, but there is nothing else that is of importance to him. I am steadfast in disagreeing with the existential beliefs that Mersault portrays. He has triggered something in my mind to speculate about the burden of responsibility in life; and the fate that people make for themselves.

There are situations where it would be considered "normal" to act a certain way. In funerals, deep remorse should be felt and usually exerted. But, not for Mersault. The emotional level he has compared to other people in society is almost nothing. He is an aloof individual who lives his life without the ups-and-downs. The part of the novel that envelops the entirety of Mersault's personality is before his execution. He realizes that the universe is indifferent to the fragile earth and its people. And because of this every human's end to their life is the same. No one is more significant than another. With that a question came into my mind, can an individual really not have a purpose in life? No. Because there is some burden of responsibility that comes hand in hand with life. It was Mersault's very indifferent nature that there was no purpose to his. And then I asked myself what is my burden of responsibility?

I am the oldest sibling in my family. There comes a lot of responsibility to setting sturdy stepping-stones for my younger siblings.

its not the conclusion though, i promise!
Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 1, 2009   #10
Is there a way to work with what I've got, or make a completely new one?

-thank you for all this, i seriously was blind to all of the possible ways people will perceive the essay. it was really interesting reading all your comments :)

The different ways people interpret the story? You have no idea. I had a Sunday school teacher read the book and tell the children that the tree is Christ and humanity is the boy. It disturbed me to see Christ as an enervated stump. I asked the teacher if the tree was in Heaven. She shot me a dirty look and I wanted to cry.

An elementary teacher told our class that the tree is representative of a mother's unconditional love. Giving Tree was her favorite book. She had a baby the year before and changed her name from Miss Simon to Mrs. Beckman. She missed that baby of hers and called home several times a day to check on her in hushed tones; she didn't think we could hear her conversations, but I always eavesdropped. She talked about her baby's poop a lot on the phone and I thought it was funny. I wondered if my mom was obsessed with my poop when I was a baby. Mrs. Beckman read the book to the class several times and every time she cried. It was disconcerting to me to see the teacher cry. I wished that she would stop reading the book.

Another teacher in elementary school read the book on Earth Day and said that the tree is Mother Nature and the boy takes and takes from Mother Nature until there is no more to take. We all die because we have no apples to eat. The world would not have shade without trees and the world will get really hot and we would all die. We wouldn't be able to breath the air because there would be no leaves to make oxygen and we would all suffocate and die. Scary stuff for a first grader! I was afraid that I would go home after school that day and my dog and my parents would all be dead because they didn't have any apples (for some reason, I didn't worry about my brother). My mom brushed away my tears reassured me that everything was alright. She probably wrote an email to the teacher.

Now as an almost-adult, I see the story being a cautionary tale about relationships, all kinds of relationships. I don't want to be the boy or the tree. I want give-and-take, I want quality time, I want conversation. I would want a symbiotic relationship where one person might share apples, but the other would at least water the tree.

The way I see things, you can't work with this essay and be the tree.
Llamapoop123 7 / 442  
Sep 1, 2009   #11
We wouldn't be able to breath the air because there would be no leaves to make oxygen and we would all suffocate and die.

Isn't this a common misconception? I felt really cheated when my friend told me that trees use up oxygen at the same rate as they produce it.

You've got the beginnings of an essay here Noto...
OP christiek 6 / 65  
Sep 1, 2009   #12
thank you notoman. it was really fun/interesting reading your comment. i am convinced i cant work with the essay and be the tree. still one of my favorite books haha

You've got the beginnings of an essay here Noto...

haha true that :)

hmm, how about mersault? eek
Notoman 20 / 419  
Sep 1, 2009   #13
The Stranger could work, but it would be much more difficult. Working with a book like The Stranger, because it isn't widely known, means that you would have to provide the reader with a summary that doesn't feel like a middle-school book report. The idea isn't to reiterate the plot of the book, but to spend the space talking about you and the unique set of attributes that you would bring to a college community. The Stranger is a nihilist novel steeped in philosophy. It would be tough enough to analyze the book and make connections to life lessons. It would be even more difficult to do all that within the confines of a word limit and the expected format for a college-application essay.


Home / Undergraduate / And the boy loved the tree?/ Character in a fiction