Publication Date



College of Arts and Sciences




Children's literature, Kate DiCamillo, The Tiger Rising, Emotional Symbolism


Arts and Humanities


This thesis analyzes the symbol of the tiger in Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book The Tiger Rising. It deals primarily with each character’s response to the tiger and what this shows about his or her way of dealing with grief. Rob and Sistine, two children exhibiting signs of childhood depression, respond to their pain (and, consequently, to the tiger) in opposite ways: Rob internalizes his grief and anger, keeping it repressed, while Sistine covers for her grief with anger, lashing out at the people around her. When Rob finds a tiger caged in the woods, he responds with fear, leaving the tiger in the cage despite having the keys to let it out. Sistine, on the other hand, insists on them freeing it. Rob’s father, another character dealing with symptoms of depression, complicates the matter: instead of literally and allegorically releasing the tiger, as his son does, he shoots the tiger. This action, however, has the result of allowing him to face his grief for the first time. It also spurs Rob into a final release of the emotions he’s pent up for so long. The last character, Willie May, is the only character who seems to be emotionally aware. She understands the emotions and actions of the people around her, and she is able to feel and address her own emotions. Willie May responds to the tiger with awe and—interestingly—resignation to his captivity. Each of these characters, in their responses to the tiger, betray their own responses to their grief or pain as well.