The Tiger’s Daughter | Summary and Analysis
The Tiger’s Daughter is a novel by an expatriate female novelist. The novel has different layers. But the main layer it includes is the journey of a female from India to America and again its repetition. However if examined more strictly, the novel deals with the protagonist’s attempt for forming a stable identity.
Undoubtly Bharati Mukherjee is an epitome of South-Asian American writers.
Her critically acclaimed novels and collection of short stories are really the narratives of countless expatriates. The Tiger’s Daughter is a story of a young woman who is Indian by birth. But the circumstances lead her to the United States and get married there with an American. Birth in one culture and marriage in another culture creates a kind of identity crisis in her existence. The present novel is the arena throughout which she wanders for the formation of her stable identity. But the irony is that till the end of the novel she does not seem to have achieved it. While staying with her husband in America, she senses a kind of nostalgia for her land of birth. A dream for and about her home resides in her mind. For the fulfillment of this dream, she moves back to India, but unfortunately she fails in her aim. The changing scenario of India and the family reputation of her father hinder her aim of finding her ‘true self’. Her ‘self’ disappears in the fog of Indian modernity and the changes occurred there. Her dream of achieving her ‘Ownness’shatters and in an utter frustration, she prepares for her return.
For most of the people, their culture becomes the medium of their identity. When they feel themselves lost onto the ditch of various cultures, their target remains to exist there with their own beliefs and ideas. The characters of Mukherjee’s are also not free from this assumption. Tara in The Tiger’s Daughter is its prime example. Tara outwardly seems open, happy, content and prosper but inwardly she is an embittered woman ,old and cynical at twenty-two and quick to take offense. While attempting to remake their self they undergo various stages. Directly or indirectly they preserver for this. This sense of articulation of the identity appears to be more rigorously and endlessly expressed when people find their unified concept of identity in question. The creativity of people is related to their cultural problems, they always want to express these problems in their writing. Whatever is presented in their novels through characters and narrators is what\how those represented feel in real life. Likewise the writers articulate the problems of cultural identity through the words of narrators and characters. Since it gets proved through the textual analysis of The Tiger’s Daughter. As Tara has been tormented by nostalgic past and the trauma of present, she lacks belongingness in any culture. Such problem appears when people are culturally dislocated. And they rush behind the search of their identity.
Next issue to be stated here is how people try to define themselves in different places and terms along the line of cultures. The questions such as who are we? where do we belong? And which is our part? are crucial for the identity exposition. Such question and the endeavor for their answer expose the fact that people are far from ideological rational and even national way of charactering themselves. Moreover it creates a sense of nostalgia in the mind of such people longing for social cultural and national root.
Culture is the source of identity. It is also the source of binding and dividing people. People belonging to the same nation cannot feel being the citizen of their own state if it is in the matter of cultural difference. So in a way, these migrant people, expatriates or exiles, become homeless or the citizen of no state. In this novel too, Tara undergoes agonizing experiences before assimilating herself as a person of identity in the Indian and American society. She gets mentally tormented and physically tired in the attempt of finding her ‘self’.
The claim that identity crisis is a real world problem of our time could be refuted by asserting that things are after all not so bad. In fact the whole world presents so many prospects and possibilities of being known to the whole world and to communicate, present ‘world community.’ But the fact still remains that the other side of the debate is making up the individual’s identity, in the late twentieth century.
Moreover, the type of people that we encounter in contemporary novel like The Tiger’s Daughter can be seen in our real life situation suffering from identity crisis being Culturally displaced. They do experience this crisis and feel they lack the security, certainty and recognition in their world.
Most of the people believe there is no meaning of life without proper identity. It provides them a sense of life. Thus we consider the situation that to be cut off from civilization is to be without future. Then we can ask the questions: does the person like Tara have no future? Is she living a life away from future? Do such people have their own life or not? The change in the time suggests that there is the inevitability of the future that is must loom. The characters in the novel find themselves in a new land and the culture that gives them the sense of loss. They long a sense of belongingness but it becomes mirage.
In the novel Tara’s struggle is with two aspects of her society. As an expatriate she feels cultural crisis. And next she is to face the problems of patriarchal society. She is between the mill of two stones: the stone of cultural crisis and the stone of patriarchal society. Tara Banerjee is introduced as the great granddaughter of Harilal Banerjee, a plucky man. At the age of 14, she flies USA for abroad study most due to her family reputation and less by her own capacity. Her father is known as the Bengal Tiger and the novel gets its topic from the same title. Although the protagonist tries to free herself from the chain of her family she fails. The frequent change in her name by her relatives forces her to strive for ‘selfhood’.
The novel is filled up with ironies. Willingly she goes America and marries American but that cannot make her happy. She moves back to India for the search of something she is missing. But there too she does not get that. By the end of the novel too. She cannot complete her mission, mission of finding her stable identity.
Thus in the present novel, the protagonist wanders for her identity. The cultural conflict invites this situation. She is the character who has already left her culture and failed to adopt a new culture. She is displaced dislocated, and floated. It is impossible for her to adjust herself to one of any of the culture. The only solution to her problem is to create a world of her own. Even if she goes back to America, her identity melts so through letters, words, dreams and imaginings, she can create the world of her own. Since once displaced person cannot have previous stable identity again, for Tara too it becomes applicable. So it would be better for her to collect and form her identity through letters.
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