Story and Structure
After reading the first chapter of "Story and Structure", by Laurence Perrine, I feel that "The Child by Tiger" written by Thomas Wolfe, is primarily interpretive literature, not escape literature. One of the reasons I feel this way is that "escape literature" is written purely for pleasure, while "interpretive literature" is written for pleasure as well as 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 deal with. "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. The fact that the story is interpretive rather than escape literature is shown in the way the author presents the story. The protagonist looks back on the events that unfolded twenty-five years earlier. He has had a very long time to reflect on it. 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. We see it on the second page of the story where the author writes "He had, he said, only recently received his discharge from the Army." The fact that the author put in the "he said" 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. We learn about death the same way as the protagonist did. This is an ideal way to catch the attention of the audience and to educate them, a characteristic of interpretive literature. Another reason this story is interpretive is the way it ends. In "The Most Dangerous Game," which I feel is an example of escape literature, we are left with a playful ending. We are given the opportunity to decide if Rainsford becomes the hunter or if he just leaves. No such ending is left in"The Child by Tiger." We should also note that the story does not end with the death of Dick Prosser. The author wants to impart a sense of the after-shock on us. This real-life facet is a trait of interpretive literature. We learn about people who brag about being part of the hunt. We learn that Prosser underlined a particular portion of the Bible. This teaches us that the act was premeditated because Prosser knew that he would soon be "walking through the valley of death." Since most escape literature has a happy ending, we can see 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
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. At this time we believe that Prosser was planning his act. This teaches us about how man's darker side 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 taken him into custody. Instead they shot him. In fact even after he was dead they 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. Thus, "The Child by Tiger" is interpretive literature because of the way it is presented, the way it ends, and what it teaches us about man's darker side. This story asks some pretty hard questions about life. These are the type of questions that would probably not be found in escape literature.