Tag Archives: precise

Exact: Experience

21 Apr

My experience with The Giving Tree in terms of being exact is that of an appreciation for the precision with which each picture is drawn and sentence is written. As more of  a poet than a writer of works at length, Shel Silverstein is a true wordsmith and master of conciseness while still managing to convey such power and depth. If it were not for his exact and deliberate choice of words, syntax and grammatical expression, The Giving Tree would be just another children’s story about a boy, his imagination and experiences with a tree as a friend.

Calvino expresses his definition of exactness or exactitude in terms of literature being an “evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images” (pg. 56) Silverstein achieves just that as he manages to imply so much more than there is to this story in actual words. Within the 25 pages  are what could possibly be at least three chapters of a story because of the richness each simple line incorporates. But it is not just the individual lines of text and context that allow for depth, but is the tension and pregnant pauses between each of the thoughts and lines that allow the reader to process and take in the experience. Not only are the words exact, but also are the placement of the words on the page in terms of spacing and indention. They become a part of the artwork and provide further support for the dramatic sense of the writing.

One of the most exact portions of the book that is also one of the greatest points of heightened emotion is on the page that reads,

“But time went by.

[next page] And the boy grew older.”

The break in lines between these pages and the realization of sadness by the tree, and therefore the reader, is the first point of conflict experienced by the reader and is most definitely deliberate by Silverstein.

It is all of these aspects combined, the exactitude of word choice, placement and precise but minimal drawings that allow for the imagination to fabricate the missing pieces of the story in terms of visual elements. These things, according to Calvino, define the characteristic of being exact and allow the reader an experience of empathy, sympathy and love for these characters.