English 580: World Literature Spring 1998

Readings | Further Reading | Policies

Discussion questions/talking points for The Tiger's Daugher by Bharati Mukherjee

[pagination refers to 1971 Fawcett Crest edition, ISBN 0-449-22100-8]

1. What do we learn from chapters two and three of part one in which a history is sketched beginning with 1879? To what does the reference to "titans" allude? Is this image (or concept) picked up later in the novel?

2. What is the general ambience of modern Calcutta as presented in the novel? What about Calcutta most excites and disgusts Tara? What are the effects of selecting specific details (kids eating yogurt off the sidewalk, for eg.) to represent Tara's attitudes? What is the role of the Catelli-Continental Hotel?

3. If one were to characterize Americans using the examples of Antonia Whitehead and Washington McDowell, what conclusions would be drawn? Even though David never directly appears in the novel, how and what does he add to the presentations of Americans? Related to this concept of presentation, what about America has most influenced Tara (both positively and negatively)?

4. How can we best characterize Tara's friends (Reena, Pronob, Nilima, Sanjay, and so on)? What are their expectations and assumptions about life and the future? What is the effect of class on these folks?

5. What are the issues that distinguish the politicians' (Ghose/Tuntunwala) positions? What kind of man is Tuntunwala? Trace the development of Tara's descriptions of Tuntunwala from their first meeting through the political rally at the Dhakaria Club ("This man is an enemy, thought Tara, savior or not" [p. 164]) to the final scenes? What happens to Tara at the end of chapter 5 of part four? Why is she referred to as a "slow learner"? What do you make of Tara's reactions to her "seduction"? Why are there no "apologies or recriminations'? How is Tuntunwala characterized in the final chapter?

6. What happens to Tara as she visits the Mata Devi? What is the 'new and reckless emotion" referred to on page 208? Compare her reactions to Antonia's.

7. Is there any resolution in the novel? How are we to interpret the final scenes when Tara and Pronob are trapped in the taxi during a riot? What do we make of Pronob's actions (is he a hero in this scene)? What is the 'vision that had teased Tara all summer"? Where else do we encounter references to Tara's having or wanting to have a vision?

8. What are we to make of Joyonto Roy Chowdhury and his attitudes toward Tara? Why does he feel obligated to protect her? Referring to the seemingly nonsensical phrases he mutters, do his words contain wisdom or is he just ranting? Is he mad? How do we interpret the scene at the funerary banks when Tara refuses to have her palm read? Compare that scene to their visit to the bustee. What do we learn about Tara in these scenes? Why is Joyonto taking her to these places?

9. Tara's parents describe themselves as "modern" Indians; what do they mean by that phrase and how do their attitudes or actions exemplify or undermine that evaluation of themselves? Why is Tara"s father referred to as the Bengal Tiger? Is there some significance to that description? Why do you think Mukherjee titled the novel as she did?

10. Why does Patel think a beauty contest a good idea? What values come into conflict as a result of the contest? Is this a conflict between differing cultures or between different generations of the same culture?