Our Casuarina Tree

by Toru Dutt
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Elucidate the theme and provide a critical overview of the poem "Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt.

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Toru Dutt has used the image of the tree which she fondly remembers in recalling memories of her childhood where "Beneath it we have played." The tree is strong and "... gallantly The giant wears the scarf," which is significant as she has identified with the tree and its ability to withstand...

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Toru Dutt has used the image of the tree which she fondly remembers in recalling memories of her childhood where "Beneath it we have played." The tree is strong and "... gallantly The giant wears the scarf," which is significant as she has identified with the tree and its ability to withstand even the harshest creeper which has the capacity to choke the tree "LIKE a huge Python." In understanding the tone and theme of Our Casuarina Tree, the reader sympathizes with Toru Dutt's words as she longs to revisit memories without the painful association, as it is not only the tree that is "deep with scars."

To the narrator, the tree represents nature and nature shares feeling and emotions and, in fact," the tree’s lament" comforts the narrator as she "saw thee, in my own loved native clime." This also links to the tree as representative of her culture as she is far away in "distant lands," but is safe in the knowledge that the tree shall "be ever dear" due to her recollections of her childhood and her loved ones "Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose."

The tree represents all life as "all day are gathered bird and bee"and "to their pastures wend our sleepy cows" and it has the capacity to unite all things together to the point that this theme of unity with her past and therefore her family, her beloved country and even the future as she wishes that "may Love defend thee" is confirmed. When she is dead, the tree is so strong and represents so much that she hopes it will be saved from "Oblivion." 

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This poem celebrates a particular tree in India that seems to symbolise not only the speaker's childhood, but also comes to stand for the former friends and family members who have died and passed on. The tree is described as being so immense and powerful that even a thick creeper, which would strangle any other tree, only appears to adorn the tree as though it were a scarf. The importance of this tree however is summed up in the following quotation, where the speaker remembers playing underneath this tree and growing up beneath its protecting branches:

Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:  
 Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,        
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,  
 For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.  

The poem is written in homage to this tree, and of course, the reference to "Our" in the title when referring to the tree signposts that it is much more than simply a poem about the tree itself. The last line of the poem asks "Love" to protect the tree from "Oblivion's curse," and this is something that indicates the tree symbolises the childhood and the memories that the speaker has of her own past and the past that she has shared with those who have gone. Through the act of paying honour to the tree, the speaker's own childhood and her friends attain some level of immortality, protected from being forgotten.

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