Child By Tiger Essay, Research Paper
Child By Tiger
The need for acceptance emerges in many sectors. In the work place and places of recreation, people feel stable when others accept and affirm them. Sometimes, however, this search for significance leads people to a point where they presume no one cares. Dick Prosser, likewise, feels this same outcasted fate. Because his skin color and lifestyle conflict, Dick never feels complete allegiance to either the black or the white race. Dick lives as a white man, but his skin color marks him as lower than the whites; consequently, Dick wanes somewhere in-between. Finally realizing his vain plea for acceptance, Dick views killing as his last feeble attempt to gain respect. Unfortunate for Dick, his last desperate plan ends with his “riddled carcass” (Pg. 37) hanging from a tree. In the short story “The Child by Tiger,” Thomas Wolfe uses Dick Prosser’s situations and lifestyles to enforce his belief that Dick’s outburst of slayings stem from an unresolved search for acceptance among the whites, blacks, and even God.
The white race takes advantage of Dick’s abilities; however, they cannot accept him as one of their own because pre-set stereotypes inhibit inter-racial relationships. Mr. Sheppardton proclaims, “That Dick was the best man he’d ever had, the smartest darky that he’d ever known.” (Pg. 26) But even “the smartest darky” cannot partake in the white man’s world. This truth evidences itself regarding church attendance. The chauffeur of the Sheppardton family, Dick must “come up to the side door of the church while the service [is] going on…and stand there humbly and listen during the course of the entire sermon.” (Pg. 27) Dick is not allowed to even enter the church proudly and listen to the service; he has to stand outside and experience the sermon from a distance, symbolizing his seclusion from the white race.
Not only is Dick unable to enter the church; he must also respect the white race when placed in difficult situations. Drunk Lon Everett slashing at Dick, Dick must not fight back because society doesn’t deem a black man socking a white man as appropriate. Instead, Dick “[does] not move” (pg. 27) and allows the “blood [to trickle] from [his] flat black nostrils and from [his] thick liver-colored lips.” (Pg. 27) Turning the other cheek, Dick passively suffers Lon Everett’s slugging once more. “But suddenly the whites of his eyes [are] shot with red.” (Pg. 27) Anger sweeping through Dick because his strength exceeds that of the drunk Lon Everett, Dick must firmly stand and take the punches thrown at him. His skin color again affirms his helplessness and servant-like nature to the white population.
The white race shunning Dick’s desire for acceptance, Dick turns to his own race. Dick’s own race won’t accept him either; he doesn’t act or live as they do. The majority of the blacks reside in Niggertown; Dick rooms in the Sheppardton’s basement. Living in the Sheppardton’s house, a far cry from Pansy’s “little shack” (pg. 34) in Niggertown, Dick further distances himself from his ancestral race. Dick also possesses skills that most black men only dreamt of having. An excellent boxer, Dick “coached [the boys] while [they] sparred.” (Pg. 25) Dick also “could certainly shoot.” (Pg. 25) But, not only could he aim and shoot a gun precisely, Dick could also read and “he read his Bible every night.” (Pg. 26) The majority of black men unable to do nothing but meager tasks, Dick soon finds himself alienated from own race. This furthers his attainment of approval.
Dick even searches for God’s approval but feels he falls short. “A deeply religious man,” (pg. 26) Dick desires affirmation from his Heavenly Father. “On the table [in his bedroom] there was always just one object; an old Bible almost worn out by constant use…” (Pg. 25) Daily Bible reading doesn’t fulfill Dick, though. Some days, “Dick would come out of his little basement room, and his eyes would be red.” (Pg. 26) With a look of weeping, everyone knows that Dick has been reading his Bible. But, somewhere Dick feels deserted. Because God’s intangibility prevents Dick from a human companionship, Dick finally gives up his relationship with the Lord. The afternoon before the killings, Dick’s Bible lay “face downward on the table,” (pg. 28) evidence that he has turned his back on God. Next to his forsaken Bible, Dick’s “modern repeating rifle…[and] one hundred rounds of ammunition” (pg. 28) lay in view. Still unresolved, Dick finally deserts God and bursts into a fit of violent rage, his last weak attempt to gain esteem.
Looking to the whites, blacks, and God, Dick thirsts for acceptance. Unable to find approval, however, Dick finally exhausts his search for consent by a shooting rampage. In the short story “The Child by Tiger,” Thomas Wolfe asserts Dick’s incapability to gain approval causes his eruption of violence. Because Dick lives as a white man but his skin color marks him as black, Dick never finds a niche. Unknown to Dick, however, the mass murdering not only takes Dick’s life, but also causes the townspeople to lose any initial respect they held. Instead of morbid reverence from the townspeople, Ben Pounders “was the proud possessor of another scalp” (Pg. 38) and Nebraska Crane boasts “Yeah – we! We killed a big one! We – we killed a b’ar, we did!” (Pg. 38) Now even further from the acceptance of the townspeople, Dick dies a humiliating death, “hanging in the window of the undertaker’s place, for every woman, man, and child in town to see.” (Pg. 37)