The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife Literary Elements


Contemporary novel; realism with some supernatural elements

Setting and Context

Setting: The Balkans; Context: World War II to the present day, focus on the events surrounding a few individuals from a single family

Narrator and Point of View

Mainly First Person. The primary narrator is Natalia, a perceptive young woman who has been trained as a doctor. Natalia's grandfather, who is also a major character, also narrates the sections of the novel that deal with his encounters with the Deathless Man. Some third-person narration also occurs in the sections that consider the tiger, Luka, and Darisa the Bear.

Tone and Mood

Reflective and retrospective. Although some of her narration deals with recent events in the town of Brejevina, Natalia dwells at great length on her past and on her grandfather's past.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonists: Natalia, Natalia's grandfather. Antagonists: none in particular, though both protagonists live through warfare and political upheaval.

Major Conflict

In many portions of the novel, the people of Galina oppose both the tiger outside their village and the village resident known as the Tiger's Wife.


The death of Darisa the Bear and the subsequent death of the Tiger's wife.


- Tigers are introduced as violent and powerful animals well before their role in the grandfather's life is fully explained.

- The appearances of the Deathless Man are indications that specific people will die.




The main literary reference is Kipling's The Jungle Book. Natalia's grandfather draws out portions of this narrative for the Tiger's Wife; the Galina tiger is itself compared to Shere Khan, a tiger from Kipling's story.


- Animals (tiger, bear, elephant) are central to the novel's events.

- Remains (the medical skull, the cousin's bones) are involved in major events, and call attention to Natalia's medical interests.


- It is possible to not fully comprehend a person you admire (Natalia's relationship to her grandfather).

- Essentially powerless people can be seen as figures of great power (the Tiger's Wife).

- People are better off not receiving valuable knowledge (the individuals who, according to the Deathless man, must die).



Metonymy and Synecdoche

- Natalia's friends and family as representative of the larger, catastrophic effects of war (synecdoche).

- The animals in the zoo as representative of the broader psychological stresses caused by war (synecdoche).


- The tiger that makes its way to Galina is given the kind of extended and psychological depiction that is usually reserved for human characters.

- Human characters (conversely) are given animal attributes: Darisa is rumored to turn into a bear, and the Tiger's Wife hisses like an animal.