The Tiger in the Tunnel

by Ruskin Bond

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When does the story "The Tiger in the Tunnel" take place?

Quick answer:

From context clues in the story, the time period in which "The Tiger in the Tunnel" occurs is the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century, after trains were introduced to India but before widespread electrification.

Expert Answers

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The narrator does not tell us when the story is set, giving it a timeless quality, but clues in the story help us narrow the time period. The story centers on the railroad and a tiger: trains did not come to India until April of 1853, so the story must be set sometime after that. In fact, we can surmise it is a significant amount of time later, as Baldeo seems entrenched in and knowledgeable about his job: any novelty is gone. Young Tembu also seems quite at home with the idea of the railroad as part of the backdrop of his life.

We can surmise, too, that the story takes place during the time of British Empire, when India was a colony of Great Britain. We can imagine this story to be set in the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century, because Baldeo has to make sure the signal light stays burning, which implies it is not yet electric. Also, Baldeo carries an axe as a weapon, not a gun, which would have been forbidden to the average Indian native living under British rule.

While Baldeo's courage in facing down the tiger has the quality of a folk tale, the specific technology he interacts with places the story in a particular era.

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