The Tiger’s Claw by R.K. Narayan
In The Tiger’s Claw by R.K. Narayan we have the theme of reliability, fear, ego, pride and honesty. Taken from his Malgudi Days collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that the Talkative Man may not be a reliable source of information. Though he holds the narrator’s attention throughout the story it seems to be a case that he is taking credit for another man’s work. The three claws that the Talkative Man claims to have cut from the tiger may be part of a ritual that some of the forest tribes carry out. It is also noticeable that throughout the story the Talkative Man favours himself. That being Narayan does not really give the reader any insights into any possible flaws that the Talkative Man may have. We know that he likes to talk a lot which may suggest that he also likes to makes up stories which show him in a favourable light. Which is very much the case when it comes to the story that the Talkative Man tells the narrator. It may also be a case that the Talkative Man is attempting to instil fear into the narrator when he is telling his story in order to boost his own ego. The more frightening the story the better the story.
In reality it is possible that the Talkative Man is no more than story-teller. As to whether his stories are true is another thing but it is certain that his story about the tiger attacking him in the station master’s compartment is false. It did not happen and the Talkative Man is taking pieces of knowledge he has from other incidents about tigers and developing a story for himself. A story which holds the Talkative Man in high regard with others. Another down side of the Talkative Man’s story is the fact that he has no witnesses to the actions he states he has done. The tiger on the arrival of the station master and then the train ran back into the jungle. Never to be seen again. Unless of course the reader believes the Talkative Man then in that case the tiger has been killed and is being brought through the village. However this is highly unlikely considering what the narrator learns about how the forest tribes treat tigers.
If anything the Talkative Man is looking for a stature in the community which he does not have. He may wish to be idolised by others. However it is also possible that there are some in the village who know that the Talkative Man talks too much. Hence his name. It may also be case that the Talkative Man is a proud man and believes that by lying about his action he will earn the respect of others. Not just the narrator but those older than the narrator who may have some sway in the village. Throughout the story the Talkative Man has spoken of himself as being strong. He may have been frightened but he remained strong throughout the story he was telling the narrator. It may also be a case that the Talkative Man wishes to be the centre of attention. To have others listening to him in awe even if some people do have the ability to see through his story. For the duration of the Talkative Man’s story it also appears that the narrator is believing what the Talkative Man is saying. Whether this is because of the dramatics of the story or whether the narrator is innocent when it comes to tribal practices is unsure and only becomes clear near the end of the story. When the narrator has the opportunity to formulate an opinion on the Talkative Man’s story.
The real issue in the story is not as to whether the Talkative Man is lying but rather why he might want to lie. As mentioned he may be seeking attention to sooth his own ego or fill a void in his pride. It is also interesting that The Talkative Man tells his story to children. Children are more susceptible to lies and would not necessarily know it the Talkative Man is lying or not. It is also possible that the Talkative Man likes to see if he can instil fear in others through his story. Using this as a marker as to whether or not he has succeeded in telling a good story. There is little doubt that if the Talkative Man had told his story to adults who knew about the forest tribes traditions that he would not have been believed. If anything people may have laughed at him which would have deflated an already deflated ego. It is better for the Talkative Man to find a younger audience because then his story has a greater chance of being believed and spread by others. Which in many ways would soothe the Talkative Man’s ego and give him and his story longevity. Whatever the motivations of the Talkative Man. He may have fooled the narrator while he was telling the narrator the story but by the end of the story the narrator most likely will have discovered that the Talkative Man has lied.