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On Killing a Tree by Gieve Patel (D.A.Q.) (Part - 01)

On Killing a Tree

Gieve Patel

Descriptive Answer type Questions

On Killing a Tree by Gieve Patel (D.A.Q.)

1. Justify the title of the poem, ‘On Killing a Tree’.

Answer: ‘On Killing a Tree’ by Gieve Patel describes two things. 

First, it speaks of the meticulous task of killing a tree. Then it tells us about the perversity and tragedy of such action, about man’s systematic destruction of the environment. 

The poet invokes Nature’s resilience in the first two stanzas through the images of a feeding tree and a healing tree. 

In the following two stanzas he creates a sense of haunting in the methodical analysis of the execution of a tree. 

Thus, the poem from its beginning to the end, describes in detail the process and consequences of killing n a tree. Hence the title is appropriate and it drives the poet’s point home in a superb way.  

2. “It takes much time to kill a tree.” –How does the poet elucidate the statement and why? 

Answer: In the poem ‘On Killing a Tree’, Gieve Patel sarcastically establishes that an evil and ugly creature like a tree deserves to be killed. 

However, simply cuts and bruises will not kill it. Even hacking and chopping will not help. The tree has grown into the huge thing by ‘consuming the earth’. 

So, poking and cutting will not kill a tree. From its stumps will rise new branches like curled monster children. If not cut again, they will grow into another fresh monster. Its deep roots will enable it to recoup from such attacks.

            By emphasizing the difficulty in cutting down a tree, Gieve Patel casts a sardonic look on the cutting down of an important part of Nature. He suggests that Nature forestalls the annihilation of a living creature that takes hundreds of years to propagate and grow.  

3. “It has grown/ Slowly consuming the earth,” –How does the poet elucidate the statement and why?  

Answer: Here the poet wants to say that the tree has grown into a huge thing by ‘consuming the earth’. 

In other words, the tree eats up or draws life from the earth. When one consuming something, the thing being consumed either dies out completely, or it is at least rendered weak. 

So, by using the word ‘consuming’, the poet sarcastically justify the process of indiscriminate deforestation. 

It is some sort of war to save the earth from the monsters named tree who it her up. If, we, however, probe deep into the matter, we find that, tree is not the destroyer but the savior of the earth. It grows up by ‘consuming the earth’ but that growth checks soil erosion. 

4. Describe after Gieve Patel, the growth of the tree, in details.  

Answer: A full grown tree takes a long time to get its present state. 

When the tree is small, it takes only a little area to propagate. With the passage of time, it takes more room in the earth’s cave. 

Man feeds on the crust of bread. Likewise, a tree grows into a huge monster by consuming the earth crust. By eating up the earth and through absorbing ‘sunlight, air and water’, a tree becomes a huge monster that deserves to be killed. 

Here the poet depicts some scientific truths suffused with poetic imageries. With the help of sunlight, air and water, the tree prepares its food through photosynthesis.  In this way, the poet shows the growth of a tree in full.  

5. How does the tree heal itself?  

Answer: Mother Nature foretells the killing of a tree because it deserves to live on without being hindered in its life. So, the tree is equipped a power to heal itself. 

One may try to kill a tree by poking and cutting, but in vain. The bark of tree gives off the sap which helps new branches and twigs to rise again from its stumps. If not cut again, they will grow into a big tree. 

Thus, the sprouts from the wounded bark keep its life, and renew the cycle of the tree. Of course, that with take many years of care by Nature to bring another tree to its glory. A human being can recover from injuries. Similarly, a tree can recoup from attacks by the axe.

6. Why does the poet describe the killing of a tree in such a graphical detail?

Answer: Gieve Patel’s poem graphically tells us how to kill a tree. Step-by-step instructions are provided. 

The average human being does not care when a tree is killed. But once we know how much violence, how much pain and cruelty we engage in when we kill a tree for purely selfish reasons, we may feel bad about it and choose to kill fewer trees. 

This is the hope that drives Gieve Patel to write this poem which is graphic in its depiction of violence. The better the violence and the perversity are demonstrated, the more convincing and deterring it can be. 

So, to make us realize that killing a tree is as much a blood-ridden business as killing any other living being is, the poet resort to such graphical details.    

7. “…out of its leprous hide/ Sprouting leaves” –Bring out the significance of this line.  

Answer: A tree’s bark is patchy and has different colors or shades of brown and green. 

A leper’s skin also is patchy and has various shades of color in it. So, to depict the roughness of the bark and to emphasize the presence of marks in it, the poem compares the tree bark to the leper’s skin.

Besides, it presents the tree more like an evil, huge pernicious creature. The poet sarcastically suggests that such an evil and ugly creature deserves to be killed.  

8. “And then it is done” –When and how is it done? 

Answer: The lumberjack who cuts the tree, hacks at it and chops it, may irritate the tree on the surface, but cannot bring down the tree. 

The bark gives off the sap which produces green twigs that will sprout if nothing stops their growth. So, to annihilate a tree, its roots are to be pulled out of the earth. There lies the strength of the tree. 

In fairy tales, a monster’s strength lies typically in something, small and vulnerable. Likewise, the tree-monster’s strength lies in its roots, sensitive, white and hidden. Once the root is pulled out and exposed, it is to be scorched and choked. Thus the soft core of the tree is hardened. It then withered and dies.  


Also Read:

* On Killing a Tree – M.C.Q

** On Killing a Tree – S.A.Q

*** On Killing a Tree – D.A.Q (Part – 02)

**** H.S. English Suggestion 2021

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