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Tears of a Tiger

by Sharon M. Draper

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Discussion Topic

Andy’s portrayal and signs of extreme depression in Tears of a Tiger


In Tears of a Tiger, Andy shows signs of extreme depression through his overwhelming guilt, withdrawal from friends and family, declining academic performance, and frequent thoughts of suicide. His inability to cope with the death of his friend Rob and his constant self-blame exacerbate his depressive state, ultimately leading to his tragic decision to end his own life.

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What were the warning signs of Andy's extreme depression in Tears of a Tiger?

Andy clearly exhibited symptoms of major depression in the novel. 

For example, Andy was constantly plagued by feelings of guilt and hopelessness. He told his coach after a winning game that he should have been the one who died. Later, he admitted to feeling guilty for taking over Robbie's position on the team.

He told his psychologist that he would never have won the position of center had Robbie been alive. Andy thought that Robbie was the best center Hazelwood ever had, and he thought that he could never match his friend's prowess on the court.

Andy was also easily irritated and exhibited extreme mood swings. For example, he could be cheerful one moment and belligerently angry the next. During an interaction with Keisha, Andy complimented Keisha on her looks, which prompted Keisha to comment on his apparently good mood. Yet, a few minutes later, Andy became extremely angry when Keisha mentioned that she had to study for her chemistry test and could not go to the movies with him. 

Andy also experienced frequent bouts of sadness, which left him feeling deflated and apathetic. For example, Andy became melancholy after seeing a Santa Claus display. He told Keisha that Santa Claus reminded him of Robbie. Keisha admitted that she did not see the connection, as Robbie was African American and six-foot-five when he was alive.

However, Robbie immediately shut down, refused to talk, and ignored her. Keisha related that she had to call her mother to take them both home, especially since Andy no longer drove. Later, Andy told Keisha that he never turned in one of his school assignments. He admitted that he did not care if his grades suffered.

There were many warning signs that Andy was extremely depressed. He exhibited apathy, experienced frequent bouts of sadness, struggled with feelings of guilt and hopelessness, and displayed extreme mood swings.

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How does Andy describe his sadness and depression in Tears of a Tiger?

As a teenager confronting a life changing event that leaves him depressed and desolate, Andy's personal views of life, death, sadness, and depression are proportional to his state of mind.

The times when we get to see Andy's real thoughts about sadness and depression appear sporadically among the different entries in the novel.

In the March 30 entry, timed at 11:oo pm, Andy confesses to his mother that his depression feels like the time when, as a little boy, he went to catch crabs on the wrong side of the beach and ended up under water, terrified that there would be nobody to save him. His father, who almost by a miracle happened to find him, was able to pull Andy out the water and scolded him for his bad decision. The intensity and fear of the emotion, according to Andy, is exactly how he feels right now regarding his depression. He is under water and no one can pull him out:

It was dark, so I couldn’t see, and I was under the water, so I couldn’t breathe ... Water got into my mouth and my throat and my chest. I was cryin’ out for help, but my cries only made things worse ... That’s exactly how I feel tonight.

On December 20, in the poetry homework he never submitted, titled "Poem of Hope," Andy compares his sadness to a dark place where he is alone and his heart is filled with "fright." Like in the other comparison, he also feels dark, trapped, helpless, and with no hope to be saved. He also feels cold, alone, and extremely upset.

In the entry "Andy's Final Phone Calls, April 12, midnight," Andy is on the verge of suicide, and he is desperately trying to find someone to talk to. Dr. Carrothers has a family emergency, and Coach Ripley is also unavailable to come to the phone.

As he hears the beep of the answering machine, Andy talks about his depression again, this time on how it pertains to school. We see the topic of helplessness repeating itself again.

When I think about school, I feel like I got a mouth full of dry bread and I can’t swallow ... Like I jumped off the deep end of the pool, then remembered that I couldn’t swim, and then realized that it didn’t matter anyway because the pool was empty ... I feel like I’m tryin’ to take deep breaths, but the air is made of sand.

Andy had a drunk driving accident where he was the driver. The accident resulted in the death of his friend, Bob, whom he loved very much. The fact that the court system removed his manslaughter charge makes Andy's survivor guilt quite intense, to the point where he can no longer live with himself.

Along the way, he still has to face the nuances of adolescence: getting good grades, abiding by the rules of his parents, playing sports, girlfriends, and friends. However, these normal instances in the life of a teenager can be deep factors of stress in an individual who is already dealing with a crippling trauma the way Andy is. Life is slowly eating at him.

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