What do the tunnel and the tiger symbolize?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Tiger and the Tunnel," the tiger symbolizes death, menacing threat, and the perils of nature. Baldeo, however, is not afraid to face death; he proudly carries on the tradition of his ancestors in providing for his family.

Like his fore-fathers he carried a small axe; fragile to look at but deadly when in use. He prided himself in his skill in wielding it against wild animals. He had killed a young boar with it once and the family had feasted on the flesh for three days.

The tunnel symbolizes opportunity, peril, and challenge. Baldeo's job as a night watchman helps to supplement his family's income from the rice fields. At night, he makes sure that the signal lamp is burning, and after scrutinizing the area, uses the manual signal to let the mail-train engineer know that the tunnel is free from any obstruction.  The tunnel provides economic opportunity for Baldeo's family, but it comes at the price of the challenge presented by treacherous dangers such as the tunnel tiger. The tiger is a threat; he is as elusive as he is dangerous. In the end, the tiger kills Baldeo, but is itself cut in half by the approaching train. For the tiger, the tunnel is a deadly peril.