This paper seeks to evaluate the play Bengal Tiger in Baghdad presenting different angles from which the play write presents his case on human interaction and reaction to circumstance. Themes in the play are of sin and redemption that arise due to continuous violence unto its conclusion.
The play is set in the year 2003 in Baghdad backdrop of the Iraq war. It aims to explore themes that are universal in nature. This are themes to do with sin and redemption caught up in a sequence of unending violence that is realized from the beginning of the play set to continue beyond the play’s conclusion. Bengal tiger is created in a manner that brings different people in Baghdad together in the period of Iraq war. It sets off with two American soldiers Tom and kev who are guarding a tiger in a Baghdad zoo. Driven by fear and hanger the tiger bites Toms hand off and as a result Kev shoots the tiger wounding seriously. The tiger dies later slowly. . After the death of the tiger this is caused by a US marine following the invasion of 2003 of Iraq. The Americans are haunted by the tiger that is by suffering, cruelty, freedom, guilt, redemption and sin “ Look the whole of my life has been invaded like most tigers are by predicament” the tiger is seen to say. “ Now am not only dead but a ghost, why am I here? Why haven’t I gone?” The atheist is confused by his existence even after death (Kabatchnik and Amnon 56)
The tiger’s ghost begins to haunt Kev and as a result he wanders off around Baghdad leading to other soldiers associating his suffering to his post traumatic disorder. After the attack Kev was sent to hospital in Baghdad where he was later visited by Tom; Who was aiming for the golden plated gun found at the late Uday’s palace; which was used to shoot the tiger: Tom seeks to get the gold plated gun from Kev with an aim of selling it back home in the United States in addition to a gold plated seat. . However the gun finally ends in the hands of uday’s former gardener; Musa, presently a translator to the soldiers. Musa in the time was experiencing repeated Ghost Visitation from his former employer Uday (son of Saddam).
Musa in his old job of gardening, designed large topiaries in form of animals: Hodges, Ben and john Willis assert that the rotting garden catches the tiger’s attention symbolizing a paradise which is lost and forgotten by its creator (78). This is similar to the absence of God and the rise of chaos in the world. Musa’s role is complex overtaken by grief, tenderness, regret, anger and frustration. In relation to the soldiers’ roles unfortunately they are not as well developed. Kev comes out more of a simpleton in the first act. He comes out more in a two dimensional view. The play write however manages to create a vivid atmosphere embedded in dramatic intriguing situation.
Kev is crude, violent, obnoxious, and hostile. He is portrayed as dump to a point that he has trouble putting on his gear. In comparison Tom is compassionate and this is the cause of him losing his hand. This is a metaphor symbolizing interaction between the Americans and the Iraqis’.
The return of the tiger is only experienced by Kev who sees him while nobody else does. Each person is shown to see the ghost of the people he killed. To understand the rational, the tiger states that prehistoric instinct is not cruelty to him but its lunch. He observes that he is stuck and though he caused misery to parents of many children, he wonders what he could have done yet he is a tiger.
The tiger is seen to reconsider that a prehistoric impact to him is not cruelty but rather in an obscene language “ Holy Fuck”. He asks what happens if his daily meal is a product of cruelty and his nature in continuous conflict with the universal moral code. This would put him in a great disadvantaged position considering lunch to him was made up of and the weak in general simply because they are easy to kill. The tiger here comes forth as our moral conscience. The play is basically about repression and war over the weak by the strong
Uday comes forth as a villain full of drama with twirling mustache. Udey represents the predators; he is a ghost and just a head in a bag. Udey declares that he is Iraq meaning that terror is everywhere Joseph is seen to show us their enraging acts and violence.
On the other hand, Hadia is corrupted in blood and flesh coming out as a symbol of innocence fallen prey to sleaze. Hodges et al States that this character would have benefitted though more development by the play write (112)
Joseph is seen to wonder of the infectious killer instinct on everyone. When it happens to people like Udey all the times a fights over Udey’s pistol and kills someone he ‘ states that it was not supposed to happen. Udey observes that such things happen. Musa however argues that he is not like Udey and war is turning people like him into people like Udey who are killers. Here, the human character is put in question when the tiger proclaims that all the secrets of the universe creation are reveal-able in the zoo.
Elements and styles of language
Joseph’s language is poetically generous and the play write uses profanity in copious amount. This strategy linguistically acts as a mirror to the play ruined garden metaphor where vulgarity and beauty exists together (Joseph 63). He has been able to explore the horror and humor in imaginative identification of the deep questions concerning life, death and afterlife. The book is at its best when it comes to metaphors when the killed tiger comes to greater realization of and self awareness, in the meaning of life more so, what conveys human cruelty. Rhetorical questions are used to emphasis on the matters being discussed especially when the tiger asks itself questions on life, death and life after death- “ Now am not only dead but a ghost, why am I here?. Why haven’t I gone?” The tiger asked. “ Am the biggest predatory cat in the world” the cat murmurs. The cat exhibits a short termed dominion over the landscape just as the beastle topiaries that come from the reign of decadent Saddam Hussein. The tiger potrays a legacy trailed by mutilations.” When I get hungry I get stupid” the tiger says, explaining his death The atheist is confused by his existence even after death (Kabatchnik and Amnon 56). Dialogue is seen throughout the storyline as Kev and Tom are having a conversation about the tiger’s ghost. The dialogue are both direct and indirect. The genius behind the play is the unification of seriousness and comedy. The tiger holds the two together perfectly as glue.
Pathos, Ethos and Logos
Anthony, Lawrence, and Graham Spence observe Tom is weakened by dismemberment when he tries to benefit from on the ongoing war. He realizes that he cannot engage himself with others as consequences of his coming across Musa (91) this clarify the ethos in the story line. Ebrahimzadeh observes that though the relationship is strong and wonderful everyone is actively seeking to take something from the other bringing about tension this is in Musa’s perspective. The author has used logics in the flow of the story line to bring out the different perspectives as seen in the book.
The tiger comes forth to force out the things in us and the thoughts that we would leave unattended. Together with the ghosts the questions that are left out in the boundaries of outside the boundaries of imaginations opening doors of the mind that had previously been left unattended to.
Anthony, Lawrence, and Graham Spence. Babylon’s ark : the incredible wartime rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2007. Print.
Hodges, Ben, and John Willis. Theatre world. New York Milwaukee, WI: Applause Theatre & Cinema an imprint of Hal Leonard Corp, 2009. Print.
Kabatchnik, Amnon. Blood on the stage, 1975-2000 : milestone plays of crime, mystery, and detection : an annotated repertoire. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2012. Print.
Joseph, Rajiv. Gruesome Playground Injuries; Animals Out of Paper; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo Three Plays. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2010. Print.