Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, In the Murder of the Night… (The Child by Tiger)

After reading, “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, I thought we were mainly done with dark stories for the time being.  I was dead wrong.  “The Child by Tiger” by Thomas Wolfe was an unexpectedly dark and grim story.

The first thing I noticed while reading, was the way the author made it a point to make sure the reader had established that Dick was kind, docile, and a good person.  This was made extremely obvious to me by when Wolfe repeated nearly identical phrases only a couple of paragraphs apart:

“On the table here was always just one object: an old Bible almost worn out by constant use, for Dick was a deeply religious man.”

“He read his bible every night.  It was the only object on his square board table.”

“Sometimes Dick would come out of his little basement room, and his eyes would be red, as if he had been weeping.  We would know, then, that he had been reading his bible.”

Throw in a church scene and more descriptions about how churchgoing Dick was, and voila you have set up your reader to be suspicious of the religiousness of Dick.

The purpose for this was most likely for it to be more of a shock when Dick goes on his lunatic killing spree in a couple of pages, because nobody would assume that a churchgoing Christian would go on a lunatic killing spree in a couple pages.  To be more direct, the author may be giving the audience the unfortunate reminder that, despite all evidence that one is good, or kind, there may be something darker deep down.

What actually set Dick on his killing spree though, partially remains a mystery.  It is obvious that he had been threatening the chef for some time, leading to her eventually quitting.  Once again, her quitting made him angry.  Maybe he was abusing her and upset that she left, and went after her for revenge? In other news, the way he referred to people as “white folk” and spoke constantly about warning the “white folk” that the end was drawing near shows that he had been planning this for some while, and he had some sort of a grudge against whites, possibly because of racism.



3 thoughts on “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, In the Murder of the Night… (The Child by Tiger)

  1. The point you made about the author continuously bringing up his religiousness is worth nothing. Would this be considered a form of parallelism? Parallel structure? I’ve forgotten which one it is. Regardless, because of his repetition of this little fact, it really gets lodged into the readers’ brains, and a bit awkwardly so. It’s so obvious, it’s unnerving.

  2. Interesting blog, but I think that the main point of the story was to show the different parts of one character and not a christian church-goer who goes bad. You see instead of the author pointing fingers at Dick for being a bad person we get to see the many sides to the story. In this way the author can merge together a child and a tiger. The church portrays a child while the gun portrays a tiger. If the author wanted us to define Dick as good or bad, he would have told us so. Instead he left it as a mystery while relying on the characters to explain everything. (Don’t know if that made any sense 😀 ).

  3. I agree 100%. The way the author set up this story made me very suspicious of Dick, from the beginning. It seems to me that Wolfe did this to prepare the readers for Dick’s change of heart/mask/appearance, as he really does seem to change from having the heart of a child to having one of a tiger. But, even though everyone is expecting something to go wrong, the reader still feels like it shouldn’t. Which is what makes it so hard when he does have that change.

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