On Meaning Making, Shel Silverstein, & The Giving Tree

Where's the Spirit?

The Giving Tree at Fifty: Sadder Than I Remembered

BY RUTH MARGALIT
The New Yorker

How do we make meaning of what we read? What is the nature of such meaning over time? There can be a beautiful gift when we are left to wonder about meaning. In this reflection on her dismay in rereading The Giving Tree after many years, Margalit writes, "A strange thing happens when we encounter a book we used to love and suddenly find it charmless; the feeling is one of puzzled dissociation. Was it really me who once cherished this book?" Silverstein in his life and work certainly opens us up to wonder. Is The Giving Tree just a book about a boy and a tree or is there something more to it? We may never know. Or perhaps it's up to us to decide?

Once there was a tree....
and she loved a little boy.
And everyday the boy would come
and he would gather her leaves
and make them into crowns
and play king of the forest.
He would climb up her trunk
and swing from her branches
and eat apples.
And they would play hide-and-go-seek.
And when he was tired,
he would sleep in her shade.
And the boy loved the tree....
very much.
And the tree was happy.
— Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree