A Tiger for Malgudi

by R. K. Narayan

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What does the line "Tigers attack only when they are hungry, unlike human beings who slaughter one another without purpose" mean in A Tiger for Malgudi?

Quick answer:

The meaning of this line from A Tiger for Malgudi is that tigers only kill because they have to, whereas humans often kill each other for no good reason. Tigers kill to eat, but in most cases, humans have no reason to kill.

Expert Answers

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Humans are one of the few species that kill for pleasure. All other species kill in order to defend themselves or because they need something to eat. For far too many humans, killing, whether it's of other humans or animals, is a pleasure. For animals, on the other hand, it's a necessity.

The tiger in the Narayan novel is no different. He must kill in order to survive. This puts him at odds with local villagers, who regard the tiger as a danger to themselves and their animals. Yet it was they who brought the danger on themselves by killing the tiger's mate and their cubs.

As the tiger reflects, tigers only attack when they're hungry. It is only then that they present a danger to humans and other animals. Contrast this with the behavior of humans; they slaughter each other without any good reason.

The tiger is alluding here to the many wars that riddle the pages of history, not to mention the numerous appalling massacres of innocents that have taken place down the ages. There's no good reason for any of these killings, which certainly cannot be said of killings carried out by tigers. They kill because they have to, not because they want to.

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