Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger by Saki (HH Munro) is a short story in which one character’s disloyalty to another proves the crux of the plot. Set mostly in Colonial India, the author aims to highlight and ridicule the pretentious nature of the upper classes of Edwardian society. With sophisticated language, we are encouraged ingeniously to dislike Mrs. Packletide, who endeavours to shoot a tiger in order to upstage her rival Loona Bimberton. The satirical tone employed throughout the story enables us to applaud her gullibility at the hands of her paid companion, Miss Mebbin.
From the beginning the satirical tone employed increases our dislike of the petty Mrs. Packletide whose motive for shooting a tiger was that her rival Loona Bimberton had recently flown in an “aeroplane by an Algerian aviator.” This feat in those times was considered not only a daring and brave feat (because aeroplanes had just been invented and were nothing like the comfortable, reliable modes of transport they are today) but Saki’s tone also shows us his repulsion of these classes by implying that this feat of Loona Bimberton’s was only a show of bravery. The word “carried” suggests she had to be helped and coaxed along the way and in the end it was only her greed for the fame it would bring her that made her do it. The alliteration highlights Mrs. Packletide’s outrage at being battered by a rival and we see her petty nature emerge from beneath her mask of society’s fashion.
Our dislike of Mrs. Packletide’s character increases as the story continues along with Saki’s sarcasm. The word “ostensibly” used by the author to describe how Mrs. Packletide is planning to show off the tiger skin rug to her friends seemingly in order to honour Loona Bimberton, is really an excuse to show off to her rival and upstage her. Similarly her offer of a thousand rupees for the chance to shoot a tiger “without much risk or exertion” shows the extravagance of this ridiculous expedition on which she is intent and reminds us of her shallow nature. This detail allows the author’s theme to grow, showing us the stupid side of Mrs. Packletide. She has no sense of the value of money or the actual excitement of hunting: the hunt, the chase, the kill.
Saki then introduces Mrs. Packletide’s paid companion, Miss Mebbin as having a:
“morbid dread of performing an atom more service than she had paid for.”
This statement of Miss Mebbin’s nature immediately creates in our minds a stingy, strict, sneering, cold-hearted woman.It also suggests she is observant and cautious, not for others but for herself. The title “Miss” combined with the detailed description of her thrifty nature creates an image of a mean old spinster. The idea that she is greedy is highlighted in the way he writes that she:
“adopted a protective elder-sister attitude to money.”
Saki is suggesting that on the surface, she is unthreatening but in truth she cares for money so much she treats it as a person, a sibling even. This revelation prepares us for her betrayal of Mrs. Packletide.
On the night of the shoot Mrs. Packletide reassures Miss Mebbin of the lack of danger showing that Mrs. Packletide knows how much of a farce this expedition really is. Miss Mebbin wasn’t actually mortally afraid but rather was concerned in case she missed a bonus in her pay. The shooting’s absurd nature is highlighted even more when Saki introduces the added detail of Mrs. Packletide playing “Patience” with cards as she awaits the old decrepit tiger to go for the obvious bait. In the end Mrs. Packletide misses the stationary tiger – and kills the bait instead! However, the tiger dies of a heart attack because of the loud gun report. Mrs. Packletide ignores this fact and claims she shot the tiger, assuming Miss Mebbin will not say a word as she is merely a “paid companion.” The villagers keep quiet so as not to jeopardise their reward.
Upon returning to England Mrs. Packletide has her revenge and gains admiration from everyone except, of course, Loona Bimberton. Once the fuss has died down we begin to see Mrs. Packletide enjoying happiness and we beg for repercussions. Saki answers our plea! Miss Mebbin returns to her old boss to blackmail her into paying for an idyllic cottage, which she does, promptly. We cheer enthusiastically!
In my view Saki achieved his goal superbly. By making Mrs. Packletide such a fake show-off with his sardonic tone and extravagant language, we grow hateful of her. Her petty, selfish nature annoys us and the extremes she will go to achieve her aims are deplorable. Although Miss Mebbin is a nasty piece of work herself, we still support her disloyalty towards Mrs. Packletide because it results in her comeuppance. The betrayal of Mrs. Packletide gives us the ending we want to this humorous story and leaves us in no doubt as to Saki’s feelings towards the upper classes.
II) Answer the following question in about 30-40 words.
A) Why did Mrs. Packletide want to kill a tiger?
Ans: Loona Bimberton had enjoyed a joy ride in an aero plane with Algerian pilot. She always boasted of this feat. Mrs. Packletide had a strong dislike of Loona. She wanted to outshine Loona by attempting a much daring feat. Therefore she wished to kill a tiger.
B) How did the circumstance prove favorable for Mrs. Packletide?
Ans: An old tiger use to roam about in the jungle around the village. It was too old and weak to kill a big game. So it use to feed itself on goats ,sheep ,and other domestic animals Mrs. Packletide availed herself of the god sent opportunity .She made efforts to obtain the tiger . Hence, the circumstances proved favorable for her.
C) In what two ways did Mebbin show her elder sister’s attitude during the tiger’s hunt?
Ans: Miss Louisa Mebbin was a paid companion of Mrs. Packletide .She had adopted a protective elder sisterly attitude towards money in general .She smartly intervened in preventing Mrs. Packletide from paying unnecessary tips in some Moscow hotel. She pointed out that Mrs. Packletide has wrongly paid a thousand rupees for the old, weak, and ailing tiger.
D) What did Louisa Mebbin plant in her garden? Why did she do so?
Ans: Louisa Mebbin exploited the situation .She threatened Mrs. Packletide that she would pass on her discovery to Loona Bimberton .To keep her mouth shut Mrs. Packletide bought a cottage for her –Mebbin named the cottage ,Les Fauves (wild beast) She planted tiger lilies there .It reminded her of the secret of the tiger’s death every time .
III) Long Answer Question:
Mrs. Packletide’s tiger is indeed a humorous story. Saki, the author employs several techniques to bring in the element of humour. Mention three incidents in the story you find most humorous and the reasons for calling them humorous? (Word limit: 150)
Ans: Mrs. Packletide Tiger is a humorous story from the beginning to the end Mrs. Packletide \’s motive for killing the tiger is preposterous as it had become a prestige issue. None of them wanted to face the reality. The pettiness and hunger for publicity of the characters evoke laughter. The publicity achieved by the two arch rivals surpassed their achievements is quite funny as compared to their dubious talents. Also, the way in which the villagers connive with the theory that the tiger had indeed died by Mrs. Packletide’s shot so as to earn the promised thousand rupees evokes laughter. Last but not the least, Louisa’s naming the cottage ‘Les fauves’ and growing tiger- lilies as a constant reminder of her victory over her arch rival are some of the incidents of humour.
I) Short answer type questions:
1. What were the circumstances which compelled Mrs. Packletide to undertake the tiger shooting expedition?
2. What happened at the tiger shooting spot? What were the benefits and difficulties Mrs. Packletide has after the event?
3. What were the humorous elements in the story?
4. Was Mrs. Packletide an Indian or a foreigner? How do you know?
5. Who was Loona Bimberton? What was Mrs. Packletide’s attitude to her?
6. What did Mrs. Packletide want to do before she left the country?
7. What seemed to happen when the rifle ‘flashed out’ what really happened?
8. Why did Mrs. Packletide dress the way she did for the country ball?
9. Describe the three steps taken by the villagers to keep the tiger in good humour?
10. How did Mrs. Packletide react to Loona Bimberton’s adventure?
11. What causes the tiger’s death?
12. What was Mrs. Packletide’s plan to do after shooting the tiger?
13. Why did Loona Bimberton refuse to look at the illustrated weekly?
III) Long answer type questions:
1. Do you agree with the view that the author ridicules the pretentious nature of the upper class of then prevailing society? Justify your answer.
2. Describe the character of Mrs. Packletide.
3. At the end of the story we develop hatred towards Mrs. Packletide. What is the reason for this? Explore the elements in the story.
4. “The pettiness and hunger for publicity of the characters evoke laughter.” Justify your answer quoting from the lesson Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger.
5. In “Mrs. Packletide’s Tiger,” Saki (H.H. Munro) tackles the human beings’ fascination with wild-game hunting, as well as the timeless drive to keep up with the Bimberton’s. Discuss.
6. What sort of an attempt did Mrs. Packletide make? What was the result?
7. Differentiate Loona Bimberton and Mrs. Packletide.
8. Suppose you are Mrs. Packletide. Years later you think of tiger hunt-episode. You decide to write in your diary what led you to give up the big game of hunting. Write a page of Mrs. Packletide’s diary.
9. Suppose you are Miss Mebbin. Your cottage is the wonder and admiration of your friends. Write a page of your diary recording how you managed to buy a pretty week-end cottage and maintain it so well.