Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
This is the first stanza of William Blake's famous poem, "The Tyger" which is also featured as the opening paragraph in "The Child by Tiger", a short story by Thomas Wolfe. In the narrative, a seemingly kind, gentle, and religious African American male named Dick Prosser goes on a vicious rampage after drinking excessively and getting in a fight with his love interest's husband (Wolfe 735). At the end of the story, a large mob made up of vengeful White people seeking justice against the "crazed Negro" tracks him down to a riverbank, where Dick awaits them with his shoes at his side and a firearm squeezed dry of ammunition (739). His stalkers gun him down, hang his lifeless body from a tree, pump him full of 300 bullets, and take his mutilated corpse back to down where he is hung in an undertaker's display window for all to see and enjoy (739). What one may not realize while begin to read this story, is that the excerpt from the Blake poem that precedes the tale actually foreshadows the theme. The tiger spoken of in the poem represents the beast that is inside all men. When provoked, a tiger can mutilate and destroy another creature, much like how Dick Prosser's character lashes out and drops bodies all over town with a repeating rifle and hundreds of rounds of bullets (735). "The Child by Tiger" serves as an example that one can only be pushed so far and be put through so much insignificant mental and physical torment before they snap and fight back against their demeaning community.
Dick Prosser was treated as something less of a human by the people surrounding him. The reason he sought vengeance on civilians was not only because the woman he's interested in wants nothing to do with him, that was just the false move that caused his emotional tower of Jenga blocks to tumble to the ground (735). As it says in the book, right before Prosser shot Pansy's husband, "What happened, what passed between them, was never known. And, besides, no one was greatly interested. It was a crazy nigger with 'another nigger's woman'" (735). Prosser is clearly not only a victim of man's need to feel superior to another, but he also possesses some pent-up aggression. Early on in the story, Prosser gets into a car accident with a drunken white male and the driver at fault punches him twice in the face and causes Prosser to bleed profusely; he could not hit back though, he had to just take this abuse like a rubber boxing dummy (727). Dick even has to treat the neighbor kids as his superiors by calling them "mister" and even referring to his master's son, Randy, as "Cap'n Shepperton" (724). Events such as this withdrew enough crucial supporting blocks from his Jenga tower to make it subject to topple so easily.
Dick Prosser's actions, however, lead to something else that is just as appalling, if not, worse than Dick racking up a body...