According to spiritanimal.info, Tigers are a symbol of courage, anger, and that “part of you that you would normally try to hide or reject.” With this knowledge, readers have a clear idea of what 15-year-old Davey Wexler is like once she introduces herself to Wolf as Tiger. In Tiger Eyes, Davey is coping with the fact that her father was murdered and has become the symbolic tiger.
The shadow she wants to deny is her father’s death. For most of the book, she’s not willing to deal with his death. Early in the book, when she’s alone, Davey begins to remember the night her father died. Before readers can get too far into the events of that night, she pulls herself out of the memory (61) . She immediately distracts herself by going home and writing her and wolf’s name together on several sheets of paper.
Davey not only avoids remembering her father’s death, she lies when forced to confront the fact, even briefly, that he died. A good example of this is on Davey’s first day of school in Los Alamos and is talking to classmate, Jane.
“Is your father a physicist?”
“No,” I say. “My father’s…dead.” It is the first time I have said that to anyone.
“Oh,” Jane says. “I’m sorry.”
“He died over the summer,” I tell her. “Of a heart attack.” Once I get started I can’t stop myself. “He died in his sleep. Everyone says it was a good way to go. That there was no pain. He was only thirty-four.” Why am I doing this? Why am I telling her this story?
“I don’t know what to say,” Jane tells me. “It sounds terrible (90).”
Despite avoiding the topic of her father’s death, she is still having to work through his death. Common knowledge states that one of the steps to the grieving process is anger and Davey is a very angry girl. This is seen angry best and for the first time, during her first encounter with Wolf. Even Wolf questions her about it.
“Who are you so pissed off at, anyway?”
“The world!” I tell him, without even thinking about it. I am surprised by my answer to his question and by the anger in my voice. It is the first time I realize I am not only sad about my father, but angry, too. Angry that he had to die. And angry at whoever killed him (49).
Later, readers also learn that she’s not only mad at her father for dying. She is mad at her mother for how she’s handling things, for how she’s living her life, for leaving her to feel all alone after her father’s death. This can be seen after her Aunt and Uncle tell her it’s too dangerous for her to take driver’s ed now and to wait until she’s a senior in high school. Her mother simply agrees to what her aunt and uncle say, as she has been.
“Since when…since when I’d like to know?” I explode now. I don’t care about logic or emotion or anything. “Can’t you think for yourself anymore? Do you have to let them decide everything?” I spin around. Jason is drinking a glass of mil and listening intently. I turn back to my mother and point my finger at her, accusingly. “You’re getting to be just like them…you know that…just like them (160)!”
Readers are allowed to wonder if Davey is correct in her accusations, and that her anger at her mother is justified, because it’s her uncle Walter who tries to take control of the situation when her mother is beside her.
Davey shows courage at the end of the book when she faces her fear and makes peace with her father’s death. She also has the courage to forgive her family for having different coping methods and for, in some ways, neglecting and abusing her.
Davey is the symbolic tiger. She shares the tiger’s anger, the tiger’s courage and she has a side she wishes she never had to acknowledge.
Blume, Judy. Tiger Eyes. New York: Dell Pub., 1982. Print.
“Tiger Spirit Animal.” Spirit Animal. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.