The Republic of Trees
Living among the trees sounds great....at first
A Bit of Background
This somewhat simple tale is about two brothers, Michael and Louis. You are quickly told that their mother was French and the father was English and that they also both died, leaving the young boys with their aunt in France. They don’t get along with any kids their age so when an English family with two young teenagers move into the village, the boys quickly make friends. They are now joined by Isobel and Alex. After spending the winter together and realizing their future was in own their hands, the four teenagers decide to run away to the forest for the summer.
A look at four teenagers with no supervision!
The ‘Republic of Trees’ by Sam Taylor is mainly a story portraying a long summer filled with sexual angst, jealousy and revolution. Four young teenagers decide to leave society behind and run to the forest.
After finding a livable derelict cottage they each set out chores for one another. The older boys Alex and Louis are on hunting patrol while Isobel and Michael are in charge of keeping everything clean and the cooking.
Weeks go by where they hunt, cook, climb trees and fall in love. It is the perfect utopia. Michael loves history and is particularly fascinated by the French revolution. It is up to him to make the rules, because as we all know, society cannot function without some sort of rules. Michael falls in love with Isobel, she is beautiful, funny and enjoys his company, and also introduces him to sexual experimentation. Over the weeks Michael becomes more and more in love with her and they spend every waking hour together.
Free from adult control they decide their roles in their new home, Isobel, accepting her ‘female’ role stays behind keeping the home, sunbathing and cooking, while the 'men' do the hunting. Louis becomes the intellectual leader, dictating the terms of their society, the Republic of Trees. Alex provides the meat and fish, and Michael, the narrator, is the only citizen.
When food becomes short they steal from nearby houses and towns. Proper rules and laws are set in place along with the creating of a flag. They also re-create the calendar and begin their own language.
Everything meanders forward quietly until the arrival of another young girl, Joy. When she joins the group she not only affects the functionality of the group but the everything they stand for too. She urges them forward in their re-enactments of the French Revolution and how they handle their ‘society’. Isobel forces love triangles between her and the boys, egging on their affections while also being somewhat involved with Micheal. Joy, however less attractive than Isobel, gains Michaels affections due to her interests in Rousseau and the Revolution.They have much more in common and Isobel can't compete agaisnt intellectual similarities. All she has are her looks and she relies on them wholly. The frenzy and madness creeps on the reader as we follow Michaels journals (sometimes written in their new language) and psychotic thoughts. When the building of the guillotine begins and the imprisonment of Isobel in her ‘Cocoon’ turns claustrophobic we begin to realise this won’t be the happy summer tale we thought. Having nearly completely turned on each other and isolated themselves from reality, the system they created together crumbles.
Children of the future
No longer do they debate the French revolution together and play out the scenes, they hide from each other, manipulate and threaten each other, all in the name of maintaining the Republic of trees, the paradise they created. The Cocoon becomes a torture chamber, buried slightly in the ground and completely covering the person inside, they can not eat, drink or think straight. They draw eyes everywhere, so that the people of the Republic know they will always be watched. Isobel gets sent here when she expresses a hope to leave and rejoin society because she is scared.
It has similarities with Welle's 'Animal Farm' and Goldings 'Lord of the flies' in that the books portray the development of class tyranny and the human tendency of maintaining and reestablishing class structures in societies that allegedly stand for total equality. They also depict how language is sometimes manipulated to abuse power. Things like the media and the use of propaganda manipulate language in order to compel specific emotions or thoughts on a subject. The Republic's idea to create their own language in order to let go of unnecessary thoughts is an example of this works.