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Decoding ‘On Killing A Tree’ – Summary

by Cameron James Connor


“On Killing A Tree” is a poetic piece written by Indian poet Gieve Patel. The poem is a metaphorical exploration of the act of uprooting a tree and the resilience of nature in response to such actions. Through vivid imagery and powerful symbolism, Patel delves deep into the complex relationship between man and nature, highlighting the primal instinct of survival inherent in all living beings.

Analysis of the Poem

In the first stanza, Patel begins by describing the process of killing a tree as a deliberate and calculated act. He uses graphic imagery to portray the violence involved in uprooting a tree, emphasizing the physical and emotional pain inflicted during the process. The poet highlights the strength and endurance of the tree, suggesting that it is not an easy task to destroy something that has deep roots and a strong foundation.

As the poem progresses, Patel shifts his focus to the resilience of the tree. He personifies the tree, giving it human-like qualities such as intelligence and willpower. The tree is portrayed as a formidable adversary, capable of defending itself against external threats and adapting to changing circumstances. Through this portrayal, Patel underscores the indomitable spirit of nature and the futility of trying to conquer it.

The poet also explores the cyclical nature of life and death. He draws parallels between the act of killing a tree and the universal theme of mortality. By likening the tree to a living being with a soul and a consciousness, Patel challenges our perception of nature as a passive entity that can be controlled and manipulated at will. In doing so, he invites us to reflect on our place in the natural world and the interconnectedness of all living things.

Symbolism and Metaphor

Throughout the poem, Patel employs symbolism and metaphor to enrich the meaning of his words. The tree serves as a symbol of strength, resilience, and vitality, embodying the enduring spirit of nature in the face of adversity. The act of killing the tree becomes a metaphor for human greed, destruction, and exploitation of the environment. Through these symbolic elements, the poet conveys a powerful message about the fragile balance between man and nature and the consequences of disrupting this equilibrium.


In conclusion, “On Killing A Tree” is a poignant and thought-provoking poem that delves into the complex dynamics of the human-nature relationship. Through vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and profound metaphor, Gieve Patel invites us to contemplate our impact on the natural world and the consequences of our actions. The poem serves as a reminder of the resilience of nature and the interconnectedness of all living beings, urging us to respect and coexist harmoniously with the environment.

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