An Analysis of Saki's 'Mrs. Packletide's Tiger'
Saki's 'Mrs. Packletide's Tiger'
Commentary by Karen Bernardo
In 'Mrs. Packletide's Tiger,' Saki (H.H. Munro) tackles the Victorian-Edwardian fascination with wild-game
hunting, as well as the timeless drive to keep up with the Joneses. In this case, the person with whom Mrs.
Packletide must 'keep up' is not named Jones, but Mrs. Bimberton. Mrs. Bimberton has recently traveled in one of
those new-fangled contraptions, the airplane, piloted by an Algerian aviator. As a result, she has become the toast
of British-occupied India.
Mrs. Packletide, her greatest rival, cannot stand this. What great feat could she accomplish that would render
Mrs. Bimberton's meager by comparison? She decides to shoot a tiger. Fortunately, she has enough money to
accomplish almost anything she wishes, and she offers a reward of a thousand rupees to anyone, or any group, that
can assist her in reaching her goal. A nearby native village takes up the challenge. As it happens, a very elderly
tiger, who is no longer able to chase down antelopes for supper, has taken to preying on the village's domesticated
animals, and the villagers would like to get rid of him as much as Mrs. Packletide would like to bag him.
So the villagers construct a platform in a leafy tree for Mrs. Packletide, and strategically tether a goat 'with
a particularly persistent bleat' underneath it. Armed with a rifle, Mrs. Packletide, accompanied by her paid
companion Louisa, waits through the night for the tiger to appear. At last the tiger is seen making his way into
the clearing. Instead of attacking the terrified goat, however, the tiger lies down. 'I believe it's ill,' Louisa
says, but the tiger rises again and heads for the goat. Mrs. Packletide fires, and the tiger falls.
When the smoke clears, however, it is apparent that it was the goat that Mrs. Packletide shot; the tiger has
died of a heart attack. The villagers will not give away Mrs. Packletide's secret, for they are a thousand rupees
richer. Mrs. Packletide assumes she can trust Louisa for the same reason.
But Louisa, who seems to felt herself underpaid and underappreciated for some time, informs Mrs. Packletide that
she'll require a little extra funding to insure that the story doesn't happen to leak out. Specifically, what
Louisa needs is the money to buy a small cottage near Dorking. People are very surprised when Louisa, a humble paid
companion, suddenly becomes a homeowner; but they are even more surprised when Mrs. Packletide gives up her
newfound hobby, big-game hunting. 'The initial expenses are so heavy,' she tells those who ask the reason.
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