The Tiger in the Tunnel by Ruskin Bond
In The Tiger in the Tunnel by Ruskin Bond we have the theme of tradition, strength, responsibility, determination, acceptance and pride. Taken from his Collected Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Bond may be exploring the theme of tradition. After Baldeo has been killed it is left to Tembu to continue doing Baldeo’s job as a night watchman. He also has to look after his mother and sister just as Baldeo did. This could be important as it suggests that Tembu is following on the traditions of his father. He even uses the same axe that his father had used for protection. It might also be important that Bond sets the story at night time. There is very little light except the light that is coming from the lamp. In many ways the setting acts as foreshadowing to the dark events that occur in the story. The fact that Tembu is only twelve when he takes on his father’s responsibilities could also be important as Bond could be using Tembu’s young age to highlight an inner strength within Tembu. It is as though he accepts the new role he has had to take on. When many might not wish to take on the responsibilities of looking after their family. Tembu does not back down.
It might also be significant that Baldeo never gives up when he is fighting the tiger. Though he knows it is pointless to try and run away from the tiger he bravely tries to defend himself. Which would suggest that just as Tembu is showing strength so too did Baldeo. If anything both Baldeo and Tembu show determination. They will not be beaten. Though sadly Baldeo loses his life in his fight with the tiger. It is also possible that Bond is highlighting the hazards that existed at the time for night watchmen. In reality Baldeo’s workplace is the jungle. An unforgiving environment for any man. It could also be important that Tembu is allowed to stay with his father in the hut. Despite his young age it is most likely that Baldeo deems Tembu to be of an appropriate age to help him with his work. Though most readers might suggest that Baldeo’s job is more suitable for a man than a young twelve year old boy. However such is the life that Baldeo and Tembu live a young boy does not have the luxury of having an easy life.
The fact that Tembu’s mother and sister do not speak in the story could also be significant as Bond could be highlighting the fact that the world that Baldeo and Tembu live in is male dominated. With both Tembu’s mother and sister having roles at home in the village. It is for this reason that the reader suspects that Tembu replaced his father as night watchman. With it being up to the oldest male in the family to provide for the rest of the family. The practices of those in authority may also be questionable considering that Tembu is allowed to take over from his father despite his young age. Though times may have dictated that this was the course of action that was taken. Baldeo’s death would have only been significant to the members of his family. For those in authority Baldeo’s death was part of the hazards of the job. It is for this reason that Baldeo would have carried his axe. He knew how dangerous his job could be and if anything appears to have accepted the dangers.
The end of the story is also interesting as it becomes clear to the reader that Tembu is proud of his father. Even though Tembu thinks that Baldeo killed the tiger when he hasn’t. It is better that Tembu believes that Baldeo killed the tiger. For in believing that his father killed the tiger Tembu in many ways is strengthened. Though the reader knows that Tembu is as vulnerable as his father there is a sense that like his father Tembu will show the same bravery should he encounter difficulty while working. The impetus for Tembu’s strength being the pride he has in Baldeo. It is also interesting to see just how resilient Tembu, his mother and his sister are. After they have grieved the loss of Baldeo they carry on with their lives. Though they remain in pain they also know that they must persevere. Life has to go on. The reader also doesn’t get any sense that Tembu is afraid while he is working. This too could be important as it would further play on the theme of strength. Tembu knows that he has a responsibility to his family and regardless of how dangerous his job may be he will honour that responsibility. Knowing that he has his father beside him at all times. Symbolically represented by the axe.