A Tiger in the House by Ruskin Bond
In A Tiger in the House by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of compassion, connection, struggle, love, freedom and control. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of love. The narrator and his grandfather have a lot of time for Timothy. Something that is noticeable by the way that both treat Timothy. It is as though the grandfather had sympathy for Timothy’s plight when he was out hunting and rather than see Timothy shot decided to take action and protect Timothy. If anything there is a close connection between Timothy, the narrator and the narrator’s grandfather. It is also interesting that the narrator’s grandfather appears to have the experience required to deal with Timothy. That is till Timothy becomes too big for the narrator’s grandfather to handle and take care of. This may be important as Bond may be suggesting that when it comes to dealing with a wild animal in an environment alien to the animal. Eventually the animal will outgrow its surroundings and resort to its natural instincts. It is for this reason that the narrator’s grandfather decides upon taking Timothy to the zoo.
What is also interesting about Timothy’s stay in the zoo is the fact that he has simply been moved from one alien environment to another. Which may leave some readers to suggest that this is the reason that Timothy died. Though the narrator’s grandfather took Timothy away from the jungle to protect him. The reality is that Timothy struggles to live in an environment that he is not accustomed to. If anything Bond could be suggesting that should an animal be born in the jungle it should be left in the jungle. The fact that the narrator’s grandfather is unaware that the tiger he is playing with in the zoo is not Timothy might also be important. As it is possible that Bond is highlighting the narrator’s grandfather’s abilities when it comes to wild animals. Particularly with tigers. He shows no fear when he is playing with the tiger. Despite the zookeeper telling the narrator’s grandfather that the tiger is not Timothy and that he is dangerous.
It may also be significant that Timothy rather than being allowed the freedom to grow as a tiger should in the jungle is in many ways trapped for the entirety of his life. First he is taken home by the narrator’s grandfather and then he is kept in the zoo. It is possible that Bond is highlighting the importance of freedom. Just as a person would wish to be free so too does a tiger or any other animal. However due to the circumstances or desires of mankind many animals are either trapped or killed. Though the reader knows that the narrator’s grandfather was showing compassion to Timothy. It is possible that this same compassion has only resulted in Timothy dying prematurely. If anything Bond may be suggesting that nature should be left as it is. Something which understandably may have been difficult for the narrator’s grandfather to do. However his noble act of saving Timothy has had a detrimental effect on Timothy. Though some critics might suggest that Timothy lived longer thanks to the narrator’s grandfather. It may also be a case that due to his instincts Timothy may not have lived a comfortable or happy life. Particularly when he was kept at the zoo.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is no sense that the narrator’s grandfather understands that a tiger should be free rather than held in a cage or compound. When he sees that the tiger is afraid of the leopard he believes that the tiger should be moved. However he does not go that step further and suggest that the tiger or all animals should be free to roam the jungle or live in their natural environment. Though it is difficult for the reader to dislike the narrator’s grandfather he is still nonetheless in the wrong. The animals in the zoo are there for public amusement. Just as those who were hunting earlier in the story did so for their own amusement. In reality man is imposing his own will on other animals for their own enjoyment. Something that has not changed since Bond wrote the story and something that is unlikely to change in the future. As long as people are willing to pay to see animals in a zoo. Animals will be taken from their natural environment and held captive for public amusement. It appears to be part of man’s make up or instinct. To control other animals. Without taking into consideration that animals are being removed from their natural environment and forced to live in a world alien to them.