119 Tiger the Mailman

Lily Cloutier

By assigning what are typically thought of as “human” characteristics to Tiger, the line between human and nonhuman is blurred throughout the first seven chapters of Pym. The reader is introduced to Tiger while Arthur is in the hold having a nightmare. He mistakes Tiger for some kind of beastly thing in his dreamlike state, but soon realizes it’s actually his trusted companion. From there, Arthur describes his relation to Tiger, stating that, “Most people love their dogs— but for Tiger I had an affection far more ardent than common. For seven years he had been my inseparable companion, and in a multitude of instances had given evidence of all the noble qualities for which we value the animal” (18-19). From here on out, while Tiger and Arthur are in the hold, Tiger shows his capacity for having “noble qualities”, or acting in ways which aid Arthur.

Interestingly enough, as we retrospectively learn, one of the primary reasons Tiger is “of value” to Arthur is because he becomes the sole means of communication with Augustus. Though Augustus manages to slip his handcuffs, he is unable to leave certain parts of the ship without risking being caught by “the villains.” Similarly, Arthur is confined to the hold since cargo was dislodged and blocked his exit. Tiger, one of Arthur’s very few companions on board, is the only one of his companions able to roam freely. In being able to freely move about the ship, Tiger is not subject to the same spatial limitations as humans aboard. His status as an animal bars him from being subject to the same kinds of limitations. However, this is exactly what enables him to take on very human traits where humans can’t: When Tiger carries Augustus’s letter from the deck to the hold, Tiger becomes a mode of linguistic communication, therefore taking on the very human characteristic of communication in a situation where it’s impossible for humans on board to do so.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Lily Cloutier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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