Mrs Packeltide’s Tiger, Summary and Analysis: Irony and Sarcasm in the Story
Mrs Packletide’s Tiger is a sarcastic story in which the author ridicules the fake vanity of the British ladies with her biting sense of humor. Set in India, the story was written at a time when India used to be British territory. The story does not give any background on who Mrs Packletide is or what she is doing in India. Her haughty attitude is like that of the wives of the British officers. English ladies that had come to India with their husbands whole they were posted here usually carried such attitude thinking they were royalty and liked being treated as it. The story revolves around her jealousy of another British lady named Loona Bimberton and the extent to which Mrs Packletide would go to show her down. Mrs Packletide’s problem is Loona Bimberton’s fame which is making Mrs Packeltide jealous and at last her jealousy grows to an extent that she cannot resist the temptation to do something that makes her more famous and well known than Loona. As a result, Mrs Packeltide decides to go tiger hunting. A series of comic events follows until Mrs Packeltide’s yearning for fame has died forever.
“Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an aeroplane by an Algerian aviator, and talked of nothing else; only a personally procured tiger-skin and a heavy harvest of press photographs could successfully counter that sort of thing”. Mrs Packeltide’s pride had been hurt badly and had she not thought of hunting a tiger instantly, her ego would have killed her. Now, she was planning of throwing a party in the honor of Loona Bimberton where she would flaunt the tiger’s skin and gift Loona a brooch made of Tiger claws on her next birthday. This must be enough to make Loona jealous as she was right now. She did not have to try a lot either to find the right kind of beast. She had offered a thousand rupees for arranging the hunt and a nearby village was the primary destination of an old tiger for satisfying its hunger, which had grown infirm due to age and could hunt only small cattle. The thought of getting a thousand rupees had excited the poor villagers who were taking their best care to keep the beast engaged so it did not roam away to new areas in search of prey. The villagers even left the cheap cattle open for the tiger to feast. The only worry was that the tiger could die of old age before the appointed day of hunt.
The auspicious night came and with it Mrs Packeltide was ready on a platform that the villagers had made for her to shoot the tiger from. With her was Miss Mebbin, a paid companion who was just as good at chatting as she was at providing financial counsel. All the while she kept chatting of things like paying the villagers less for the tiger and the goat among others. Soon the poor beast appeared on scene hungry and looking for food. The goat that had been bought to lure the tiger was a poor creature that bleated persistently. Meanwhile Miss Mebbin suggested that if the tiger did not touch the goat they must not pay the villagers. She was always ready to take care of others’ money lest they ended up wasting it.
As the rifle flashed with a loud report, the tiger rolled to one side and then lay there still. It did not take very long before the excited villagers gathered around the dead beast. They rejoiced and celebrated in triumph. However, Miss Mebbin was up to something else. She closely investigated the dead tiger and announced that it was not killed by Mrs Packeltide’s shot and that instead it was the goat which the bullet had killed. The irony in the story is that the hunt did not turn out to be a serious affair at all. From the villagers to Miss Mebbin, all were serious about their money and Mrs Packeltide was concerned for her hurt pride and was just shooting to restore it. Neither was she a good shot and nor was the beast a strong or dangerous one. The entire tiger hunting episode was a staged drama and nothing good was going to come out of it except some fame and satisfaction for Mrs Packeltide’s and temporary respite from the bite of jealousy that had been torturing her since Loona bimberton shot to fame. So, actually, it was much ado about nothing and a vain English lady was paying just to satisfy her vanity.
Since, Miss Mebbin was a paid companion, Mrs Packeltide did not have any difficulty trying to silence her and the villagers were ready to remain silent for they were being paid well. After that Mrs Packeltide faced the cameras with a light her and her illustrated fame reached from the pages of the Texas Weekly Snapshot to the illustrated Monday supplement of the Novoe Vremya. So, everything happened as per the plan and Mrs Packeltide succeeded at making Loona Bimberton jealous beyond imagination. She wrote back a half-hearted thanks for the tiger claw brooch and declined the invitation to the luncheon party since it could bring her repressed emotions to the surface. She was not interested in Mrs Packeltide’s party or vanity.
It was just a few days after the event that Miss Mebbin came to Mrs Packeltide and told her that it was difficult to keep her secret. She proposed that the secret would remain a secret if Mrs Packeltide was ready to bear the expense of a new cottage priced at Six hundred and eighty which Miss Mebbin wanted to buy but did not have the money to afford it. With heavy heart, Mrs Packeltide had to agree because there was no other option before her. Overall, the entire tiger hunt proved came out to be very expensive. Later if anyone asked her why she did not go anymore for tiger hunting she would reply that there were quite big incidental expenses involved. Mrs Packeltide’s tiger is an amusing tale of vanity and show off. However, it is not just comic and humorous but the author has also used it to ridicule the way of life, the rich British ladies led. The author has ridiculed their hunger for limelight, publicity and fake greatness. Mrs Packeltide is not a difficult to understand. her vanity is evident easily. She is willing to spend and ends up spending more than she planned just to gain publicity and make another woman feel jealous. She cannot bear being considered ordinary and therefore orchestrates the entire drama so she can acquire more fame than Loona. This is her biggest weakness and Miss Mebbin uses it to her profit. She blackmails the British lady to extract money for buying a cottage. At last Mrs Packeltide is left with her load of publicity and decides never to hunt again. If anyone asks she just mentions the expenses. Overall, the lesson is that being honest is difficult and vanity can prove costly.