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.