Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Editions can help.
Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Editions can help.

The Black Walnut Tree Summary & Analysis
by Mary Oliver

Question about this poem?
Have a question about this poem?
Have a specific question about this poem?
Have a specific question about this poem?
Have a specific question about this poem?
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
A LitCharts expert can help.
Ask us
Ask us
Ask a question
Ask a question
Ask a question

"The Black Walnut Tree" was written by the American poet Mary Oliver and first published in her 1979 collection, Twelve Moons. In the poem, which is usually read as being autobiographical, the speaker and her mother must decide whether to sell their walnut tree in order to help pay off their mortgage. The decision seems easy at first: the tree causes no end of problems, its roots clogging up drains and its heavy limbs threatening to damage the women's house during storms. Yet the tree also stands as a testament to the speaker's ancestors, who emigrated to the United States and became farmers in Ohio. The speaker and her mother instinctively understand that selling the tree would dishonor the preceding generations of their family who turned to the land as they built a life in their new country. While the issue remains unresolved at the poem's end, it's clear that the speaker believes that some things—inlcuding family and heritage—are more important than money.

Get
Get
LitCharts
Get the entire guide to “The Black Walnut Tree” as a printable PDF.
Download