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The Child By Tiger


 Thomas Wolfe

The story, "The Child By Tiger" written by Thomas Wolfe, is
primarily interpretive literature, not escape literature.
"Escape literature" is written purely for pleasure, while
"interpretive literature" is written for pleasure and to
help us understand the world around us. Interpretive
literature educates, asks questions about life and presents
some aspects of life that we may not want to face. "The
Child by Tiger" is interpretive literature because of the
way the author presents the story, the way it ends, the way
it educates us, and especially how it helps us understand
man's darker nature.
This work is interpretive rather than escape literature
because of the way the author presents the story. Thomas
Wolfe has the protagonist looking back on the events that
occurred twenty-five years earlier. Even though he has had
a very long time to reflect on them, he is looking back in
the hope that he can make some sense out of it all. The
author uses this situation to his advantage. On the second
page of the story where the author writes, "He had, he
said, only recently received his discharge from the Army",
shows that the protagonist is second guessing what Dick
Prosser had said. This reflective outlook is a good
position from which to teach the audience. The reader
learns about death the same way as the protagonist. This is
an ideal way to catch the attention of the audience and to
educate them at the same time as the protagonist, which is
a characteristic of interpretive literature.
Another reason this story is interpretive is the way it
ends. In "The Most Dangerous Game," which is an example of
escape literature, the reader is left with a playful ending
and has the opportunity to decide if Rainsford becomes the
hunter or if he just leaves. No such ending is left in "The
Child by Tiger."
In addition, the story does not end with the death of Dick
Prosser. The author wants to impart a sense of the
after-shock on the reader and introduces characters who
brag about being part of the hunt, and the fact that
Prosser underlined a particular portion of the Bible
indicated that the act was premeditated and that Prosser
knew that he would soon be "walking through the valley of
death". This real-life facet is a trait of interpretive
literature. Since most escape literature has a happy ending
and this does not, is additional proof that this is not
escape literature.
Most importantly the story is interpretive because the
author is trying to help us understand man's darker side.
From time to time we read about someone "flipping out" and
killing a bunch of people. It happened recently in
Dunblane, Scotland, and in Oklahoma City. When we ask
ourselves why something like this happened, we are unable
to answer. In our story, a young man of 30 goes insane and
kills about 10 people. The author does not try to justify
the act. What he does do is try to shed a little light on
one of these situations. This illumination is the educative
aspect of interpretive literature. 

Another example of the educative aspect of interpretive
literature is shown when the boys find the gun. Dick
Prosser makes a secret pact with them. He promises to take
them out to shoot it if they don't tell anyone about it.
The boys agree and in so doing they form a bond with
Prosser. This act is a lesson about man's "darker" side and
how it allows him to use his friendship to keep from
getting caught. This teaching process is a trait of
interpretive literature.
The next example of man's darker side is the end of Dick
Prosser's life. After Dick had expended all of his ammo, he
threw away his gun, sat down and removed his shoes. At this
point there was no reason to kill him. The townspeople
could have captured him and brought him into town. Instead,
they shot him and even after he was dead, continued to
shoot him; they shot him 300 times. This is morbid but it
shows man's darker side. Laurence Perrine, in Story and
Structure, states that interpretive literature "helps us
understand our troubles." In "The Child by Tiger" we are
trying to understand the troubles of mankind. 

"The Child by Tiger" by Thomas Wolfe, is interpretive
literature because of the way it is presented, the way it
ends, and what it teaches about man's darker side. 


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