Gieve Patel’s poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ presents a vivid description of man’s cruelty and violence to nature to advocate the philosophy of non-violence. In the poem, the tree stands for nature that provides nourishment, for man. But modern man, out of selfish greed, kills a tree and thereby destroys nature. The poet describes the whole process of killing a tree. Neither a simple jab of the knife nor hacking and chopping can kill a tree. It is firmly fixed with its roots anchored in the earth. So, it has to be roped, tied and pulled out of the earth-cave to kill it completely. Then it has to be exposed to sunlight and air scorching, choking, browning, hardening, twisting and finally withering. The poet uses a number of images of death to highlight man’s cruelty and violence. Thus he tries to arouse our love and sympathy for all its objects of nature.

How does a tree offer resistance to its destruction? How does its resistance fail?

The substance of the Poem ‘On Killing a Tree’

Justify the title of the poem “On Killing a Tree.”

Give the central idea of the poem ‘On Killing a Tree.’

“Not a simple jab of the knife/Will do it.”—What does the phrase ‘a simple jab of the knife’ mean? Why can’t a simple jab of the knife ‘do it’?

“It has grown / Slowly consuming the earth,”—Bring out the significance of this line.

“But this alone won’t do it.” What is ‘it’? What alone won’t do it? Why?

“And out of its leprous hide/ Sprouting leaves.”—What does the expression ‘leprous hide refer to? What does ‘its leprous hide’ bear? Bring out the irony suggested here.

“And the strength of the tree exposed.”—Where does this line occur? What is described as the strength of the tree’? How is it exposed?

“No, The root is to be pulled out.” – Why has the word ‘No’ been used? How is the pulling out of the root related to the killing of the tree?

“And then it is done.”-Explain how it is done.

“The source, white and wet,/The most sensitive, hidden/ For years inside the earth.”—How does the poet describe the source and its functions?

“Why it is not quite easy to kill a tree?

How does a tree grow? What are the different stages to kill it?

Describe in detail the growth of the tree in the first stanza.

How does the tree heal itself?

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