A Tiger in the Zoo | NCERT Class 10 Poem | Stanza-wise Summary


The poem “A Tiger in the Zoo” is written by Leslie Norris. It explains the agony and helplessness of a caged tiger that lives in a zoo. The poet explains what his life could be if he had been a free animal. The poet has tried to explain the condition of animals that are caged by human beings for their own fun.

A Tiger in the Zoo | NCERT Class 10 Summary

A Tiger in the Zoo: Stanza-wise Summary

Stanza 1

He stalks in his vivid stripes
The few steps of his cage,
On pads of velvet quiet,
In his quiet rage.

Word Meaning:
1. Stalks: follows
2. Vivid: bright coloured
3. Pads: paws of a tiger
4. Rage: anger

Summary of Stanza - 1

The poet says here that the zoo tiger moves around in his cage under his brightly coloured skin. He goes on to say that the tiger can only take a few steps because the cage is small and difficult to move around in. His footsteps are unheard because he has very soft feet, like velvet, and there is no sound of the tiger's footsteps. The tiger attempts to control his rage by quietly walking around the confines of his cage. He is irritated because he is not free.

Stanza 2

He should be lurking in shadow,
Sliding through long grass
Near the water hole
Where plump deer pass.

Word Meaning :
1. Lurking: To be hidden as to wait for your prey

Summary of Stanza - 2

According to the poet, if this tiger was free, he would have hidden behind the long grass near the water bodies so that he could easily catch a deer for food. Essentially, the poet is saying that a tiger's natural life is to live in the jungle where he can catch and eat his prey, whereas the tiger in the cage cannot.

Stanza 3

He should be snarling around houses
At the jungle’s edge,
Baring his white fangs, his claws,
Terrorising the village!

Word Meaning:
1. Snarling: warning sounds made by animals
2. Baring: uncovered
3. Fangs: Sharp teeth of animals

Summary of Stanza - 3

According to the poet, if the tiger had been free, he would have snarled around the houses on the outskirts of the forest. With his razor-sharp teeth and claws, he would terrorise people. The people living in the villages would be terrified.

Stanza 4

But he’s locked in a concrete cell,
His strength behind bars,
Stalking the length of his cage,
Ignoring visitors.

Word Meaning:
1. Concrete: a building made of bricks, cement, sand and water.

Summary of Stanza - 4

The poet has arrived at the reality of the tiger inside the cage. He claims that the tiger is imprisoned in a strong cell made of strong building material. He goes on to say that because the tiger is imprisoned, his ferocity is also imprisoned. He just stalks around in the cage. Because his power is limited by the cage, he never tries to terrorise the visitors. As a result, he never attempts to terrorise the visitors because he cannot attack them.

Stanza 5

He hears the last voice at night,
The patrolling cars,
And stares with his brilliant eyes
At the brilliant stars.

Word Meaning:
1. Patrolling: to guard, to vigil

Summary of Stanza - 5

According to the poet, the tiger hears the patrolling cars in the middle of the night. Patrolling cars are police vehicles that are used to patrol at night. As a result, the tiger hears the sounds of these cars at night. He then looks up at the stars with his shining eyes. The poet wishes to express that the tiger is sad and helpless because he is confined in the cage. As a result, he stares at the stars in the night, attempting to divert his thoughts to them.

Literary Devices

1. Personification – the tiger is personified, e.g. ‘he stalks’
2. Enjambment – line continues to next line without any punctuation mark, e.g. sliding through long grass………..deer pass
3. Oxymoron – use of adjectives opposite in meaning (quiet rage)
4. Alliteration – use of sound ‘p’ in ‘plump pass’
5. Imagery – the poet has tried to create an image of the tiger’s activities (lurking in shadow)
6. Onomatopoeia – use of sound words e.g. snarling.


Overall Summary

This poem contrasts a zoo tiger with a tiger in its natural habitat. The poem travels from the zoo to the jungle and back again. The poem contrasts a tiger's mood and environment in the zoo and a tiger's mood and environment in the forest. He has no freedom in the zoo. He is imprisoned in a concrete cell behind bars. He is enraged, frustrated, and helpless. This reminds him of his natural habitat: hiding and sliding in the long grass near the water hole and pouncing on the fat deer, terrorising the villagers with his sharp teeth and claws.

He hears patrolling cars late at night in the zoo. The tiger in the zoo appears helpless, reduced to being a showpiece and source of entertainment for visitors. The poet wishes to convey that keeping wild animals in small zoo enclosures, away from their natural habitat, is cruel. In the cage, they are angry, helpless, and unhappy. He pays no attention to the people who have come to watch him. He stares at the brilliant stars with his bright eyes in the darkness.


In the poem “A Tiger in the Zoo”, the poet is conveying an important message that wild animals should be in their natural habitat.
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