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Tiger's Daughter Summary

The Tiger’s Daughter is an immigrant novel about returning home. An immigrant novel by definition is a prose fiction of some length that deals with the protagonist leaving his or her homeland and settling down in a foreign country to start a new life. In the process, the protagonist goes through trials and tribulations while settling down in the adopted land: fighting discrimination, getting married, finding work—in short, integrating into the county of adoption. Typically, the protagonist of an immigrant novel goes through the phases of desire, control, displacement, and integration. Although The Tiger's Daughter evinces all these characteristics, the primary event in the novel is the protagonist returning home after seven years of living abroad.

Seven years before the story begins, Tara Banerjee, the only daughter of a wealthy industrialist in Calcutta, on the East coast of India, was sent to Poughkeepsie, New York, to study at Vassar, a famous women’s college. After graduating, she went to New York to study for a doctorate in English. Meanwhile, she met, fell in love with, and married David Cartwright, an aspiring American writer, while working on her doctoral dissertation on Katherine Mansfield.

The novel begins by Tara Banerjee returning home to her parents in order to reconnect with them, as well as with her other relatives, and the school and college friends she had left behind. Hence, the purpose of her visit is to rediscover her roots and to understand more about her Bengali Indian culture.

What begins as an innocent home-coming ends up as a sensational and frightening experience in which Tara is immersed in a proletariat uprising. Tara herself is caught in a riot that takes the life of a loyal family friend. Throughout the novel, Bharati Mukherjee expertly, and subtly, builds the tension between the aristocratic upper classes and between the factory workers, the proletariat and the poor.

Interestingly, Mukherjee does not build up the tension through incidents of violence. Rather, through deft use of dialogue, she imitates anglicized British-Indian English to satirize the rich. The poor, on the other hand are either always at a distance, often servants who are seen and not heard. Mukherjee is able to capture the callousness of the capitalists almost entirely through accents, idiosyncrasies, and attitudes.

Eventually Tara gradually realizes that she is herself responsible for the civil unrest, at least indirectly. At the beginning of the novel, Tara is enamored of power and authority. She is influenced by her...

(The entire section is 631 words.)