01/13/2012 03:22 pm ET Updated Mar 14, 2012

The Power of the Unknown

One thing that has really stuck out at me while reading The Tiger's Wife is the power of the unknown and its effect on people. In Chapter 2, Natalia becomes frustrated when she fails to persuade one of the diggers, Duré, to allow her to treat his children for illness. Duré wants to continue treating his children with more superstitious methods, like the rajkija wrap. While Natalia knows this is an ineffective way to cure the sick children, she cannot persuade Duré to accept that her medicines are what is best for his kids. We see this again when she finds out that the diggers are looking for the body of an ancestor who has supposedly cursed them. I think this might be when Natalia realizes it is just futile to try to persuade Duré to see things her way; they are simply just not looking at things from the same perspective, making it impossible to come to a consensus.

In Chapter 4, we are taken to the village where Natalia's grandfather grew up. It was disorienting to think about how the townspeople had no concept of what a tiger was (besides her grandfather and the apothecary). They have trouble accepting the reality of the tiger and look for religious explanations for the tiger's existence, calling him the devil. They do this because it is the only way to explain the tiger's existence within the bounds of their current understanding of the world. It is too much for the villagers, even after being shown pictures of the tigers in The Jungle Book, to completely comprehend the existence of such a foreign concept. The blacksmith, as he leaves to go and kill the tiger, believes that he is going to face the devil.

These incidences represent how what we know, what we accept as reality, can change our perspective. There is no way for Natalia and the diggers to see eye to eye because it is as if they are not occupying the same reality. Natalia sees a world with scientific answers, cures for the sick through modern medicines. Duré see a world where spirits decide the fate of other humans. In Natalia's grandfather's village, I do not think it really matters to the people when they see the pictures of the tigers in the book. They were ignorant to the existence of tigers and even when they are made aware of the realness of these tremendous animals, it is not something they can easily accept. That is one of the reasons the villagers are so eager to kill the tiger, while Natalia's grandfather wants to save it. Natalia's grandfather sees a beautiful creature whom he has read about, while the others see an unpredictable killer that they can only rationalize to be one with the devil.

I think we can look at the power of the unknown as the root of many of the world's problems today. Just like with Natalia and the diggers, when two people are not looking at things from the same perspective, it is often impossible for the two parties to come to an agreement. This is why it has proven so hard for America to reach agreements with Middle Eastern countries. Our cultures are so different that it is often hard for us to relate to one another. Perhaps, like the villagers with the tiger, we feel the need to use violence, to go to war, with these countries. We are scared of the unknown and the only way we feel we can protect ourselves is to fight until one of us is forced to accept the beliefs of the other.