Ecocritical Appreciation of Gieve Patel’s "On Killing a Tree"


"In my childhood trees were green
And there were plenty to be seen. "
--Louis MacNeice 
The theme in Gieve Patel’s ecocritical poem  On Killing a Tree is the notion of a clash between two different attitudes, saving and cutting a tree. The focus for this is environmental degradation. The poem is very short. But it slashes out scar in our minds.  The ravages of modern industrial society are represented by the woodcutter. We think like of the cannibalizing its own guts and soon to destroy the living trees and home lives of our mother earth. Read More Indian English It was such a human story. A similar process is going on in the countries in the world which are being mined for profit. Patel launches into a tirade against the practice in his  On Killing a Tree but in a tone of total irony. 

 Cutting of trees is not simply cutting the branches or cutting its stem. Here it is given a ceremonial entity. The branches and leaves will grow again. We need to cut out the root and dry it in the sun so that it is destroyed. Read More Indian English Patel endorses that it will take too much time to kill a tree. The sarcastic tone is clear in view that cutting of trees need the same cruelty of a murderer. No Jagadish Chandra need to prove once again that trees have life. Only but our heartlessness deny this scientific truth. It is not just a simple jab, a quick stab or blow  to do the job. The tree has grown, like that of a growth of a child,  slowly consuming the earth: eating and drinking from it: rising out of the earth, feeding upon the crust of the earth, absorbing: taking in: innumerable years of sunlight, air water, out of the trees’ leprous hide: resembling the skin of a leper (here) refers to the discolored bark of the tree: the newly formed leaves begin to sprout:
“It takes much time to kill a tree,
Not a simple jab of the knife
Will do it. It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.”
A woodcutter simply the professional murderer of a tree may hack: cut or chop with repeated and regular blows: and chop, but still this alone will not do the job. The tree does not seem to feel any kind of pain because the bleeding bark seemed to heal all the time. The trunk of the tree from close to the ground will produced curled green twigs that will rise from the miniature bows. 
In contrast to this practice of ripping natural substances out of the ground, making them into something unnatural, and then returning the waste products to the earth in an indigestible form—all in the name of economic progress and profit— Patel presents the very different attitude that we have toward the earth. At first the difference puzzles Patel. Read More Indian English He asks us how it can be that a cutting a tree has remained productive for over a thousand years, but human civilization is pending destruction after only a period. The difference, as Patel later learns, is that cutting a tree is no childish job- rather a heartless process of infanticide. Patel endorses us to respect the earth as a living being and seek with humility to maintain the ecological balance that the earth needs. We should acknowledge that we do not own the earth but try to be responsible guests. So we need the cruelty to: 
“So hack and chop
But this alone wont do it.
Not so much pain will do it.
The bleeding bark will heal
And from close to the ground
Will rise curled green twigs,
Miniature boughs
Which if unchecked will expand again
To former size.”
The most important thing to do while killing a tree is to ensure that the root is pulled out of the anchoring: source of security and stability: earth. The tree is to be rope-tied and pulled out: snapped out: pulled apart or break with a snapping sound: or it should be pulled out entirely from the earth cave:
The root is to be pulled out -
Out of the anchoring earth;
It is to be roped, tied,
And pulled out - snapped out
Or pulled out entirely,
Out from the earth-cave,
And the strength of the tree exposed,
The source, white and wet,
The most sensitive, hidden
For years inside the earth.”
Finally, the strength of the tree will be exposed, from the very source where the white and wet, which is the most sensitive part which has been hidden for many years inside the earth. Read More Indian English Then it is only a matter of scorching: burning superficially so as to discolor or damage the texture of: and choking: here drying up: in the sun. In the end, the tree will go through a process of browning, hardening, twisting and withering. Then ultimately, the tree gets killed:
“Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air,
Browning, hardening,
Twisting, withering,
And then it is done.”
Gieve Patel is himself a doctor, an environmentalist, and he is conscious of food chain and the preservation of it. His  On Killing a Tree says the same things, only sarcastically. The Earth was put here as a garden with trees for us not to conquer and extinct but to love and live. That way of thought is productive in On Killing a Tree.

Ardhendu De 


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