The Tiger Rising Plot Synopsis
The Tiger Rising tells the story of 12-year old Rob who is trying to come to terms with the loss of his mother who died from cancer. Unfortunately, he is unable to express the way he is feeling, partly because he can’t fully accept the loss and partly because his father is keeping a lid on his own emotions.
The boy’s life is further complicated by the bullies who make fun of the strange rash that has appeared on his legs. Still, his life is made a little easier when he meets Sistine, the new girl in school with whom he bonds after sharing his love of art with her. She is also dealing with loss but of a different kind, as while her parents are still alive, the father has left the family.
Where does the tiger fit into all of this?
Rob discovers the tiger when exploring the local woods. The poor animal is kept in a cage by Beauchamp, the boss of Rob’s father. The tiger takes Rob’s mind off the loss he has endured and he introduces the animal to Sistine.
Eventually, the children recognize how unhealthy it is for the animal to be locked up and they make a plan to set it free.
Do the children release the tiger?
Yes but there are consequences. After the tiger is released, a gun is fired and the poor animal dies. Rob’s father is the person holding the gun and he shot the tiger because it was about to attack Beauchamp.
This horrifies Rob and Sistine and they both react emotionally to the situation. With anger, Rob lashes out at his father and breaks down in tears. Strangely, the rash on his leg disappears.
Does the film have any hidden meanings?
On the one hand, this is a family film about two children who grow emotionally attached to an animal. There have been many films of this sort, from The Black Stallion to Free Willy.
However, while the film will be familiar to some, there are hidden meanings attached. There is the theme of captivity for starters. In a literal sense, the tiger was trapped by its cage. However, Rob and Sistine were also held captive; Rob by the stifled emotions that stopped him from grieving properly, and Sistine by the reined-in anger she felt about her parent’s separation.
Then there is the theme of freedom. As short-lived as it was, the tiger eventually found freedom from the cage where it had been locked up.
The children also found freedom in their lives, as the tiger’s death caused them to release the difficult emotions that they had been bottling up inside. Rob’s father was able to break free from his trapped emotions too as he was able to grieve with his son after the boy lashed out at him.
Why did Rob’s rash disappear?
According to the kindly Willie May who worked at the motel Rob stayed in, the rash was the physical representation of the emotions that he had trapped inside. It disappeared after he finally unleashed the repressed feelings that had been causing him both emotional and physical pain.
Read More: The Tiger Rising Movie Review
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