It's a children's classic. But I don't like it. Nay, I loathe it, and have for years.
It is a story about a lifelong abusive relationship, and the story implicitly endorses submitting to an abusive relationship -- in the name of love -- as a good thing.
I got to thinking about The Giving Tree after reading this parody of it (H/T). It's more concerned with politics than relationships, but the final page has the tree quite properly telling the boy "You're a real dick."
He sure is.
I've heard it said that it's really about the unconditional love that a parent has for a child. And I'm glad for the unconditional love that my parents have for me. Shoot, they've bailed my adult ass out on more than one occasion. For that, I am grateful, and ashamed that it was necessary for them to do so. But I am certainly not, as the boy is to the tree, never thanking them and only looking for new ways to exploit them.
A better analogy for the story is an abusive spouse. The boy is a husband who orders their lives according to his selfish desires, and regards his wife as only a resource to be drained, physically, emotionally, and financially. And then runs off and has his fun.
Some people get trapped into abusive relationships, and the bonds that trap them are unconditional commitments that they make to love a person, no matter how unworthy that person becomes of that love. The victim sees him/herself as somehow ennobled by a willingness to endure abuse and live a lie for the sake of an ideal.
But there is nothing noble about slavery. There is nothing noble about enduring abuse for its own sake. There is, on the contrary, a moral duty to oneself; to say "I am more than a victim, and I will act accordingly."
This is basically the same rationale I followed when I left Christianity. What I was doing, quite consciously at the time, was exiting an abusive relationship with the Church. There may have been reasons to endure the abuse in silence (e.g. financially provide for my family), but one of those reasons was not that I had an inherent moral duty to do so.
And neither do you. You're a human being, and you're valuable. Whether you want to arrive at that conclusion from an imago Dei perspective, a humanist perspective, or something else entirely, you have intrinsic worth to yourself merely by being human.
You don't have to stay in an abusive relationship. And if anyone tells you otherwise, just say "You're a real dick."