In this poem, Leslie Norris has given an appropriate description of a tiger. This poem contrasts a tiger in the zoo in his cage with the tiger in its natural habitat. The poem moves from the zoo to the jungle, and back again to the jungle. The poet sees a tiger full of rage but quiet, moving in his cage in a starry night. The poet feels that the tiger should have been moving freely in the forest and hunting at his will. But now he is locked in a concrete cell behind the bars. At night he watches stars with his brilliant eyes and longs for freedom.
Detailed Summary (2)
1.Walks in Quiet Rage: The dweller of the forest is forcefully put in a cage. The tiger is caged in a zoo. There, in his artificial habitat, he walks in quiet rage. The stripes on his body are very distinct and can be easily seen. The stripes are darker in colour than the rest of his coat. The tiger moves very softly and quietly with his ‘pads of velvet’. But the range of his movement is limited. He goes on moving around within the confines of his cage. The tiger doesn’t relish the stares of the onlookers in the zoo. His rage or anger is suppressed.
2. He Should Have Been in his Natural Habitat: The poet means that the zoo is not the rightful place of the tiger. He is a denizen of the jungle. His real place is in the wild. Had he been in the wild, he would have been lurking around in shadow. He must have been sliding quietly through the long grass to ambush his kill. He should be using the long grass and shadows as necessary covers to keep his movement undetected. He would know where he could get his favourite hunt — the plump deer. He should approach the waterhole quietly where animals and deer come to drink water.
3. Terrorising the Village: Had the tiger been in the forest, sometimes he would stray into human settlement. He would stray around the outskirts of the village. These human settlements are at the jungle’s edge. On seeing the villagers he would open his long sharp teeth and claws to terrorise the residents. But it would be just a show of power and strength to the villagers. He would have no intention of killing the villagers and entering their houses. The poet tries to say that generally the tiger never attacks till he is highly provoked. Killing is not his hobby but only the necessity of his food.
- The tiger's movements are soft and quiet, but it is evident that it is filled with anger.
- The poet mentions that the tiger's rage is suppressed in the zoo, indicating that it is not in its natural habitat.
- This implies that the tiger's behavior in the zoo is a result of its captivity and confinement, leading to frustration and anger.
4. Alas, the tiger is not in his natural habitat—the wilds: Unfortunately, he is locked in a concrete cell of a zoo. His powerful and strong body is of no use to him as he is put behind the bars. His movements have been limited. He is continuously moving about the length and breadth of his cage. He doesn’t relish the curious stares of the visitors. He simply ignores their presence.
5. Remains Awake till Late at Night: The poet describes how the day ends for the tiger. He doesn’t go to sleep until the late hours of the night. He hears the sound of the cars of the zoo official patrolling at night. The stars shine brightly in the sky and so do his brilliant eyes at night. He is constantly looking at the brilliant stars. Alas, he watches the brilliant stars only behind the bars of his cage.
Main Points of the Poem
|1. What is the poem "A Tiger in the Zoo" about?|
|2. What is the central theme of the poem "A Tiger in the Zoo"?|
|3. How does the poet describe the tiger's behavior in the poem?|
|4. What does the poet convey through the line "What do they know of the jungle, who only the jungle know"?|
|5. What is the significance of the title "A Tiger in the Zoo"?|