In “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” the titular tiger contains several layers of symbolic significance. Mrs. Packletide has her heart set on killing the tiger in order to attract attention from her peers through her exotic hunt—and particularly to one-up rival socialite Loona Bimberton. In literature, the tiger is frequently represented as a majestic and terrifying predator, such as the man-eating Shere Khan in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Here, however, Saki describes an elderly, almost-tame tiger who dies from fright at the sound of a gunshot. Mrs. Packletide is more than happy to sell her fake hunt—she targets a harmless tiger and then misses her shot at close range—in order to boast of her illusion of an exotic big-game hunt in India to her peers back home in London. Through this contrast between reader expectation and reality, Saki uses the tiger to reflect on colonial British travelers’ lustful and corrupt behaviors in exploiting foreign wildlife. The story’s pitiful tiger first and foremost serves to undermine Mrs. Packletide’s grand show of exotic big-game hunting. Saki also employs the tiger as a symbol that demonstrates Mrs. Packletide’s ineptitude compared to the Indian villagers’ practical resourcefulness—she cannot even shoot the elderly tiger at close range, whereas the villagers have managed to keep it confined within the village boundaries so that they can collect their thousand rupees reward from Mrs. Packletide.
The Tiger Quotes in Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger
The compelling motive for her sudden deviation towards the footsteps of Nimrod was the fact that Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked of nothing else; only a personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of press photographs could successfully counter that sort of thing.
The prospect of earning the thousand rupees had stimulated the sporting and commercial instincts of the local villagers; children were posted night and day on the outskirts of the local jungle to head the tiger back in the unlikely event of his attempting to roam away to fresh hunting-grounds, and the cheaper kinds of goats were left about with elaborate carelessness to keep him satisfied with his present quarters.
The great night duly arrived, moonlit and cloudless. A platform had been constructed in a comfortable and conveniently placed tree, and thereon crouched Mrs. Packletide and her paid companion, Miss Mebbin. A goat, gifted with a particularly persistent bleat, such as even a partially deaf tiger might be reasonably expected to hear on a still night, was tethered at the correct distance. With an accurately sighted rifle and a thumb-nail pack of patience cards the sportswoman awaited the coming of the quarry.
In a moment a crowd of excited natives had swarmed on to the scene, and their shouting speedily carried the glad news to the village, where a thumping of tom-toms took up the chorus of triumph. And their triumph and rejoicing found a ready echo in the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that luncheon-party in Curzon Street seemed immeasurably nearer.
Therefore did Mrs. Packletide face the cameras with a light heart, and her pictured fame reached from the pages of the “Texas Weekly-Snapshot” to the illustrated Monday supplement of the “Novoe Vremya.”
From Curzon Street the tiger-skin rug travelled down to the Manor House, and was duly inspected and admired by the county, and it seemed a fitting and appropriate thing when Mrs. Packletide went to the County Costume Ball in the character of Diana.
“How amused everyone would be if they knew what really happened,” said Louisa Mebbin a few days after the ball. “What do you mean?” asked Mrs. Packletide quickly. “How you shot the goat and frightened the tiger to death,” said Miss Mebbin, with her disagreeably pleasant laugh. “No one would believe it,” said Mrs. Packletide, her face changing colour as rapidly as though it were going through a book of patterns before post-time. “Loona Bimberton would,” said Miss Mebbin.
Louisa Mebbin’s pretty week-end cottage, christened by her “Les Fauves,” and gay in summer-time with its garden borders of tiger-lilies, is the wonder and admiration of her friends.
Mrs. Packletide indulges in no more big-game shooting. “The incidental expenses are so heavy,” she confides to inquiring friends.