what contrary images of life and death do you find in the poem On killing a tree ?

Expert Answers
Kathryn Draney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem On Killing A Tree, by Gieve Patel, presents vivid images of the resilience of trees and describes how difficult it is to kill them.

By using so many descriptions of life and juxtaposing them with the darker images of death, Patel is able to explain to the reader that trees take significant effort to kill. They cannot be taken down by "a simple jab of the knife."

It has grown
Slowly consuming the earth,
Rising out of it, feeding
Upon its crust, absorbing
Years of sunlight, air, water,
And out of its leperous hide
Sprouting leaves.

This part of the first major stanza describes the flourishing of the tree, how it has been given life by the earth around it. The words such as "grown," "feeding," and "sprouting" all carry positive connotations and create images of life and health. These images are directly juxtaposed with the following stanzas that detail exactly how to take that life away.

The following stanza begins "So hack and chop / But this alone wont do it." The description of the bark "healing" and the green twigs rising from the ground emphasizes the life that exists within the tree, despite trying to chop it down.

The next two stanzas explain that if you want to kill a tree, you must pull it out by the roots.

Then the matter
Of scorching and choking
In sun and air

This image directly contrasts with the stanza I mentioned above, where the tree is shown flourishing and healthy. At the end of the poem, the tree "chokes" and dies. However, it is important to remember that the images of death and dying still elicit thoughts of life, because how can something die if it never lived?

Hope this helps!