The Green Tree by Zakariyya Tamir
In The Green Tree by Zakariyya Tamir we have the theme of innocence, imagination, control, escape, friendship and coming of age. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Tamir may be exploring the theme of innocence. Rhanda is upset yet Talal through his actions is able to alleviate her fears and concerns about not getting the red frock. What is also interesting about the story is that Talal comes from the core of a rock. An inanimate object gives life to a boy. This may be symbolically important as Tamir could be suggesting that even in times of doubt or when a person is low. They may seek solace in the most unlikely places. It also helps that both Talal and Rhanda have a good imagination and as such are able to spend the afternoon playing basing their adventures solely on their imagination. That is till the man is tied to the green tree and killed. This is too much for both Talal and Rhanda and there is a sense that both children have come of age after witnessing the man’s execution.
Another reason the execution is important is because it highlights the first time that Talal and Rhanda are not in control of their circumstances. Tamir possibly suggesting that with war comes a loss of innocence and control. Something that is noticeable by the fact that after the man is executed Talal and Rhanda stop playing games. The reader left aware that neither child has ever seen a person being killed. The theme of escape is self-evident in the story. Throughout the afternoon both children play different games to help Rhanda escape the feelings of loss she feels over the red frock. In fact one would not be wrong to suggest that both Talal and Rhanda are having an idyllic time. That is till the soldiers arrive. Another important aspect of the execution is the fact that children are the real casualties in war. The sight of the man being killed, if anything, would be overpowering for a child. Who does not understand what the war may be about? In reality all a child wants to do is to play as Talal and Rhanda are playing.
There is also no disputing that Talal and Rhanda develop a friendship. Thanks largely to Talal’s goodwill and efforts to cheer Rhanda up. It is through this friendship that Rhanda forgets about what upset her in the first place. This may be significant as Tamir may be suggesting that friendship can overcome any obstacle. A lesson that the soldiers might do well to learn. The cloud in the sky could also be symbolically important as Tamir may be using the cloud and its colour (white) to place an emphasis on Talal and Rhanda’s innocence. An innocence that is shattered when they see the man being killed and again the children have no understanding as to why this is occurring as they have no concept of the war that is happening between two opposing sides. In reality Talal and Rhanda are lost for words and their actions highlight this to the reader.
The end of the story is also interesting as by turning into a rock both Talal and Rhanda are suppressing the feelings that they feel. Where previously they were full of joy this is no longer the case. The negativity of the man’s killing has resulted in both Talal and Rhanda hiding their feelings or shutting down completely so they do not have to understand or try to understand what has happened. The fact that Talal came from a rock could mean that he has been hurt before and as such reverted back to becoming an inanimate object that does not feel. Only coming out of the rock when he sees Rhanda cry can he identify with her and may possibly want to help her. As to whether Talal and Rhanda will be seen again is difficult to say. They have seen terror and may not wish to feel that emotion or any emotion again. Literally both Talal and Rhanda have gone into their shell (the rock). A place they feel safer from the cruelties of the world. In reality Tamir has written a piece about the negativity of violence on children. Who do not understand why people go to war and who are the first victims of war.