The Tiger's Wife

The Tiger's Wife Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Is the Tiger's Wife herself depicted as powerful or powerless? Use examples to support your answer.

    It is possible to argue that the Tiger's Wife exerts an unusually strong influence within the town of Galina. After all, she wins the loyalty of some of the town's most sensitive and intelligent residents (Natalia's grandfather, the apothecary) and becomes an intimidating figure in local folklore. Assuming that she was in some way directly responsible for Luka's death also helps this position. However, it can also be argued that the Tiger's Wife is fundamentally weak: her disabilities, status as a religious outsider, and inexperienced nature simply work against her too strongly. After all, she is incapable of changing her life and is tricked into drinking poison by the once-sympathetic apothecary.

  2. 2

    Why are animals so prominent in the story? What is their function(s) in the narrative?

    Animals, such as tigers and bears, played a central part in the grandfather's upbringing in Galina. By returning to these creatures, Natalia may be indicating that her grandfather was profoundly shaped by his past. In turn, her own occasional preoccupation with animals can be taken as a sign of the deep bond that she and her grandfather share. However, animals do serve other functions in the narrative. For instance, Obreht suggests the savage and absurd quality of war by showing how animals, not humans, react to hostilities in unnatural ways.

  3. 3

    How would you characterize the relationship between Natalia and her grandfather? How are they similar to one another, and how do they differ from one another?

    Natalia and her grandfather share several characteristics: both are devoted to medicine, both are capable of standing up for their beliefs when pressed, and both (despite their education) are preoccupied with aspects of the world that do not seem purely rational. Their shared attraction to images of animals is a sign of their bond, yet their relationship does not always seem perfectly warm or close. There are periods when Natalia draws away from or "outgrows" her grandfather's routines, for instance. Likewise, there are aspects of his own life that Natalia's grandfather only reveals to his granddaughter gradually.

  4. 4

    Why and in what ways are political considerations important to the narrative?

    The life of Natalia's grandfather occasionally intersects with political forces in dramatic ways: he gains fame by saving the Marshall, but also loses some of his influence when a new regime takes over the city. Generally, though, The Tiger's Wife shows how political concerns filter into everyday life. Politics can invade otherwise secure households (as in the case of the "hat" who comes to interrogate Natalia's grandfather) and can slowly guide individual career choices (as in the case of Natalia herself, who is in part motivated to pursue medicine by the political chaos she observes).

  5. 5

    How would The Tiger's Wife be different without the figure of the Deathless Man?

    The Deathless Man is the most clearly supernatural element of The Tiger's Wife: without him, the entire story would be much easier to classify as a work of pure realism. After all, he is observed by Natalia's rational grandfather, while many of the other supernatural "happenings" may be little more than items of gossip that sweep through the town of Galina. In addition, the surreal and invincible presence of the Deathless Man allows Obreht to emphasize the idea that medicine (one of the novel’s central themes) is ultimately a battle against death, full of temporary triumphs and final defeat.