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Tiger – Leslie Norris

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Tiger – Leslie Norris

What right do we have to put a tiger in a cage?

Yet another Human Error! They talk about freedom and fight for their freedom and then they go to the zoo to see the tigers!

Summary & Notes

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He stalks in his vivid stripes
The few steps of his cage,
On pads of velvet quiet,
In his quiet rage.

  • The poet sees the tiger locked in a concrete cell in the zoo. In spite of all his strength, he now lies imprisoned behind the bars.
  • The caged tiger is angry. It moves up and down the length of his cage.
  • The stripes on his body are of strong bright color. His pads/feet are velvet soft.
  • He is full of rage/anger but is quiet because he knows that he is helpless here.
Meaning
  • Stalks – Walks slowly
  • Vivid – Clear
  • Stripes – Lines
  • Pads – Feet
  • Velvet – Soft
  • Rage – Anger
Questions
  1. How does the tiger look in his cage?
    The tiger has sharp, clear stripes on his body. He looks majestic as he moves slowly and quietly in his cage. He has soft velvety pads. He makes no noise as he moves. He has brilliant shining eyes.
  2. What does the tiger do in his cage?
    It is a very small cage.The tiger can hardly take a few steps along the length of the cage. He doesn’t take any notice of the visitors who come there. With his shining eyes, he keeps looking at the bright stars.
  3. Why is the tiger angry?
    The tiger is angry because it is caged. It has lost the freedom of roaming in the jungle like the other tigers.
  4. Why is the tiger’s rage said to be ‘quiet rage?’
    The tiger’s rage is said to be quiet because, in spite of the burning rage, it is not able to avenge the humans who have shut him in the cage.

He should be lurking in shadow,
Sliding through long grass
Near the water hole
Where plump deer pass.

  • Looking at the imprisoned tiger, the poet is filled with pity.
  • He says that the poor tiger should have been in the jungle, hunting and resting.
  • There, at this point of the night, he would have been lying in the shadows of trees and sliding quietly through the long grass.
  • There, near the water hole, he would be waiting for some fat deer to pass that way. Thus he would be lying there in expectation of a heavy feast.
  • Here the poet imagines what the tiger would be doing in case he failed to find any prey in his natural habitat.
Meaning
  • Lurking – Hiding
  • Sliding – Moving
  • Water hole – A river where animals come to drink
  • Plump deer – Young deer
Questions
  1. What should the tiger be doing if he were in the jungle?
    The tiger would be lurking in the shadows of trees. He would be sliding slowly through the long grass. He would be sitting by some water hole and waiting for some plump deer to pass that way.
  2. What should the tiger be doing if he were at the edge of the jungle?
    The tiger would be moving around the houses in a nearby village. He would be growling while moving around .the sight of his white fangs and his terrible claws would fill the villagers with terror.
  3. Mention the two places where the tiger could have been found. What could it have been doing there?
  4. The tiger in the poem is helpless in its rage. Explain.
  5. Why does the poet suddenly shift the focus of the poem to the wild?
    The poet has juxtapositioned the zz-scene to the wild to present the horrible contrast between the present state of the tiger and the natural place of its existence. The juxtaposition brings about the effect of slavery and freedom.

He should be snarling around houses
At the jungle’s edge,
Baring his white fangs, his claws,
Terrorizing the village!

  • He says that the tiger would be growling at the edge of jungle near some village.
  • He would be showing his white fangs and claws while moving here and there.
  • He would thus become a cause of terror for the villagers.
  • The poetess here gives a hint that if we destroy the natural habitat of tigers, they will be forced to turn to our towns and villages to find their food.
Meaning
  • Snarling – Showing the teeth
  • Jungle’s edge – Border of the forest
  • Baring – Showing
  • White fangs – White teeth
  • Claws – Nails
  • Terrorizing – Frightening
Questions
  1. What could the tiger have been doing if it were not caged?
  2. Do you think that humans have done justice to the villagers by caging the tiger? Why do you think so?

But he’s locked in a concrete cell,
His strength behind bars,
Stalking the length of his cage,
Ignoring visitors.

  • Very slowly and silently, he moves up and down along the length of the cage. He takes no note of the visitors who come to the zoo to have a look at him.
Meaning
  • Concrete – Cemented
  • Cell – Cage
  • Behind bars – Caged; locked
  • Stalking – Walking
Questions
  1. What is the tiger doing? Why is he ignoring the visitors?
    The tiger is moving along the length of the cage slowly and quietly. He sees that he visitors keep coming and going. None of them thinks of releasing him from his prison. The tiger sees that all of them are fellows of without feeling. So he stops taking any notice of them.

He hears the last voice at night,
The patrolling cars,
And stares with his brilliant eyes
At the brilliant stars.

  • The tiger knows no rest during the day because of the visitors.
  • Even at night he remains disturbed due to the noise of the patrolling cars.
  • He keeps staring at the brilliant stars with his brilliant eyes. Perhaps he is challenging the brilliant stars!!!
Meaning
  • The patrolling cars – The police cars
  • Stares – Looks angrily
  • Brilliant – Bright; glorious
Questions
  1. What are the last voices at night?
  2. What keeps the tiger awake to hear the last voices at night?
  3. Why do you think the tiger looks at the stars?
    The tiger has lost all hope from men. Now it has hope from heaven only. It is this hope that has kept the brilliance in his eyes. That is why the tiger looks at the brilliant stars with his brilliant eyes.
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Biju John

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men.

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