How does "The Tiger in the Tunnel" illustrate the theme of an ordinary man's extraordinary courage? 

How does "The Tiger in the Tunnel" illustrate the theme of an ordinary man's extraordinary courage?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Tiger in the Tunnel" illustrates the theme of an ordinary man's extraordinary courage with the stand that Baldeo takes against the attacking tiger.

Out of necessity Baldeo has a job as a signal-man for the railroad. He is grateful that he has this position to supplement his livelihood since his rice fields provide only a meager living. Nevertheless, Baldeo has heard that there are panthers about. Then, too, he has heard the legend of the tunnel tiger, a ferocious cat who is a man-eater. But, Baldeo is not worried because he prides himself on his skill in wielding his axe against wild animals.

One night Baldeo has his son at the station with him. The boy, Tembu, asks if he should accompany his father. "No, it is cold tonight. Do not get up." Baldeo departs groggily after lighting his lamp. He heads toward the lamp post at the curve of the tunnel to see if it is still lighted. He has heard that there are wild animals who sometimes come near the tunnel, but Baldeo is not too anxious because he has his axe and can defend himself:

Baldeo walked confidently for being a tribal himself, he was used to the jungle and its ways. Like his fore-fathers he carried a small axe: fragile to look at but deadly when in use.

Soon, Baldeo has an opportunity to use his axe. For, after has made certain that the line is clear, Baldeo sits and soon forgets his surroundings as he dozes.

A low grunt resounded from the top of the cutting. In a second Baldeo was awake, all his senses alert. Only a tiger could emit such a sound.

Baldeo wonders from what direction the tiger is approaching. He worries that it is headed towards the hut where his son lies unprotected. Soon, however, Baldeo realizes that the tiger is headed toward him. Baldeo backs up to the signal post and prepares to stand his ground. When the snarling tiger attacks, Baldeo fights him courageously:

With a marvelously agile leap he avoided the paw and brought his axe down on the animal’s shoulder. The tiger gave a roar and attempted to close in. Again Baldeo drove his axe which caught the tiger on the shoulder, almost severing the leg.

Unfortunately, Baldeo's axe becomes wedged in the tiger. Now without a weapon, Baldeo is completely vulnerable. He stands fearlessly as the tiger attacks him; knowing that his son will remain safe, he feels a "searing pain" and dies.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Baldeo's death shows an ordinary man's extraordinary courage.

Baldeo is quite ordinary.  There is nothing that outwardly distinguishes him from anyone else.  He works a standard job as the night watchman.  Yet, Bond infuses Baldeo with extraordinary courage when he has to come face to face with the tiger in the tunnel.  Baldeo shows incredible resolve as the "huge body of the tiger [is] trotting steadily towards him."  It would be completely understandable if Baldeo ran away. However, Baldeo's courage is evident in how he knows that "flight was useless."  He knows that the tiger is "more sure-footed" and could take him down if Baldeo retreated.

Baldeo shows heroic stature, having "dared to stand in the way" while "the great brute [was] moving rapidly towards him."  As the tiger attacked, Baldeo uses his axe to defend himself.  Baldeo never once backs down, even when he has lost his weapon and the tiger "sprang upon him."  In this entire sequence, Bond describes the last moments of Baldeo's life as representative of extraordinary courage. The way Baldeo faces certain death is filled with valor because he does not acquiesce to fear.  While Baldeo is ordinary, the way he approaches his final moments embodies extraordinary courage.