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Tiger's Daughter Themes

Displacement, defined here as the inverse relationship between the self and place, is a major theme of The Tiger’s Daughter. It is not to be understood as being displaced from one’s home because of a natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane. In immigrant novels, a displaced person undergoes a gradual process of settling down in the new place. Tara’s displacement is happening to her in her own birth country where she returns after seven years. In the context of this novel, displacement is as much of a mental state of being as it is a physical state. From the moment she arrives back in Bombay, Tara begins noticing various mannerisms, diction and accent, and exaggerations among her relatives that she finds alternately amusing and irritating. She is a person of a taciturn disposition, not given to expression of emotion. As such, Tara describes their exaggerated gestures of hospitality, combined with aggressive profession of their love for her, with irony and subtle sarcasm. Unable to fit in with the society she has left behind, Tara Banerjee is also unable to appreciate the fierce, raw tribal love that her relatives seem to feel for her, expressed innocently and freely. In the West, people need to be in contact to have a relationship, regardless of how closely they are related. In India, by contrast, contact is not a necessary condition for family ties; the fact that one is related by kinship is enough for people to show affection to each other, even if they have literally never met before. Tara is not accustomed to this and feels very alienated from her relatives and friends.

A second theme in this novel is actually a consequence of the first: alienation. In the context of immigrant novels, alienation is a part of displacement during which the alienated individual goes through a period of very uncomfortable adjustment, especially in relationships. Tara seems to be unable to establish a relationship with anyone, not even her husband, David. Only her parents seem to be exempt from caustic criticism, although she seems unable to talk to them.

The second form of her alienation seems to come from her adverse relationship with Calcutta society at large, the working poor, those whom her father, employs and gives them pitifully low wages and exploits them in every way. Alienation is a form of displacement.