Shel Silverstein wrote a children’s book that can be perceived through multiple critical lenses, from historical to feminist to psychological. In the Giving Tree he uses personification, metaphor, and allusions to depict the psychological impact of growing up with someone who was different than him but whom he shared a special bond with.?? Silverstein begins by using personification to describe the tree’s constant giving and dedication. Throughout the life of the tree, she ultimately sacrifices and gives everything she has to the boy symbolizing both compassion and love.
She continues this pattern throughout her entire life and his entire life which is why Silverstein may have portrayed her as a woman. Throughout history women have been portrayed as mom’s who would give absolutely everything up for their child. Mom’s across all species of life and human mom’s receive a motherly instinct often times when their child is born. According to the Parental Investment Theory, girls and women after reproduction exhibit a “maternal instinct”. This instinct provokes them to provide aid, assist, embrace, and invest in their offspring.
The tree in the story does just that as she provides aid to the boy by giving him apples to sell, she embraces his existence and never sends him away, she invests her body in him and gives up every part of her for his wellbeing and by doing so she assists him in several aspects of his life, often times when he is very lonely. The tree is therefore personified as a woman in the story as she exhibits characteristics of the “maternal instinct” and though she did not give birth to the boy she takes him in as if she had.??
One of the main messages portrayed in the story is that unselfish everlasting love ultimately has the greatest effect on the lover not the one being loved. The mother figure/tree was deeply wounded in the long run as every time the boy came for something more, she would have to sacrifice a part of her body to make him happy or satisfy him. Psychologist Barbara Frederickson offers a psychosocial theory on the concept of everlasting love. She describes that it does not exist and ultimately any connects a human being engages in is true love if those engaging in the scene are both portraying strong positive emotions.
Taking this theory as fact, it leads to a counterargument on whether or not the tree truly loved the boy or felt obligated to show feelings towards him. Either way, she along the journey of her life loved more than the boy but ultimately ended up sacrificing everything for him, once again portraying that maternal instinct.?? There was also a metaphor between the mom (tree) and her child within the story. In The Giving Tree, the tree (the mom) was willing to give anything to the boy (the son).
The tree made self-sacrifices in order to help and make the boy happy, which any mom in general would do for her son as referenced by the maternal instinct she portrays. Moms indeed make several self-sacrifices to make their kids happy, and the kids often times just take them and run with them and never think about how much it cost their mom. The speaker in this poem is not directly told, but I think the speaker is either the writer, Shel Silverstein, or anyone who saw this happen in the story and is now retelling it.
The speaker of The Giving Tree, really, is the choice of the reader. Ultimately, the story is recounting this event in terms of symbolization as each part of the tree symbolizes part of the life the mom has given up for the son, the aging of the boy symbolizes the guarantee of being loved until eternity, and the woman tree symbolizes a mother figure.?? The Four Loves is a Biblical Allusion Silverstein incorporates into his story. The Four Loves is read as “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wring and possibly broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. ” This relates directly to the story as the mother tree makes herself vulnerable to the boy in order to prove her indebted love for him.
This love is unselfish which is proven as she gives up every part of her body to assist and embrace the boy. The Socioemotional Selectivity Theory states that as people age and their perceived time in life decreases, they shift from focusing on information seeking goals to focusing on emotional goals. The trees emotional goal in the piece would be to prove her undivided love to the boy by giving everything she has towards him. Throughout the life of the boy, the mother feels the need to fulfill this maternal instinct she has inside of her and does so by giving up everything for the boy.
The boy exhibits characteristics of this theory as well since as his life comes to an end he longs to come to terms emotionally with this woman figure who he’s grown up with. He becomes less focused on what he can get from her but how he can return love and emotions that she had given him through frequent visits.?? In conclusion, Silverstein employs a variety of rhetorical devices such as personification, symbolism, metaphor, and allusion to depict a mother’s maternal instinct to her son figure.