Conflict in 'The Child by Tiger'
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Conflict in \'The Child by Tiger\'
“The Child by Tiger” is narrated by a man who is remembering an event from his
childhood. The story centers on Dick Prosser, who is a black hired hand for Mr.
Shepperton. Dick is involved in several levels of conflict throughout the story.* These
include intrapersonal conflicts, a conflict with society, and conflict with his environment.
The first conflict is very important in the scheme of the story, because it provides
the necessary conditions for this kind of an event to take place. This is Dick’s conflict with
his environment. Although he is a free man, and seems to be very tolerant, Dick lives in a
time and place where most people are less than friendly to black men, and do not see him
as an equal. This becomes evident when the auto collision occurs, and the drunk man
proceeds to assault Dick without cause, and without fear of retaliation. This is because he
knows that a black man is powerless in the society of the time.
Society brings us to the second conflict, which is Prosser’s conflict with society.
One night, without warning, he begins a killing spree which spans the better part of a day,
and spawns a fatal manhunt. His conflict with the society in general is characterized by his
indiscriminate choice of victims. These victims range from a police officer to an innocent
black man looking out his window, to several citizens who try to put an end to his madness.
This conflict is stopped when the mob catches up to him, and he surrenders in soldier-like
fashion. The hint of the conflict lingers, however, when the mob leader brags about killing
“a big one.”
The third and most interesting and complex type of conflict in this story is the
intrapersonal conflict within Dick. He shows two very distinct sides which seem to
intertwine at times. In the early going, he is portrayed as friendly and polite. He is depicted
playing with the children and listening to the church services, singing songs. His Bible is
always on the table, and he is always a gentleman. During this time, however, there are
glimpses of something different within him. The incident with the driver, when his eyes go
red, and when he gets done reading the Bible. He also talks of judgment day coming for
the white folk. A major clue to this inner rage comes when the boys find the gun, but he
convinces them not to tell, so it will be a surprise. This is a definite warning sign.
When the killings occur, there are no resins given or explanations made. We can
only assume that something brought out the dark side of Dick’s personality. The dark side
is very evident as he methodically shoots the many victims of his crime spree. But as the
incident ends, takes off his shoes, and gives up, almost a return to his original self.
The combination of elements, environment, and variety of conflict in this story
make for a very powerful and thought provoking read. Although it is at times hard to
follow, it is an excellent exploration human nature.
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Conflict, Narratology, Intrapersonal communication
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