Cortázar’s “Bestiary” of a Tiger
“Bestiary” is a tangling story of a girl who went to visit her relatives for the summer out in the country. Like many of Cortázar’s pieces, this story was full of mystery, intrigue, and questions. The main character Isabel, seems to be a very intelligent and observant girl. She notices a lot about the other people in the house, especially between Rema and The Kid. Her first strange observance of the two was at night when she was heading to bed. Rema had come to give The Kid a cup of coffee and when she give it to him, his fingers touched her’s very slightly. This was enough to bring some fear to Rema, and she immediately jerked her hand away from him. I saw this as very strange. I immediately questioned, “Why was Rema acting this why?” The next day, Isabel saw Rema’s hand next to her ant farm and began to imagine the ant’s crawling up her hand, and this reminded her of that strange experience with The Kid and the coffee cup. This led me to believe that there was a bad relationship going-on between Rema and The Kid. Even later on in the story, as Isabel is heading to the kitchen late at night, The Kid stops her and tells her to “tell Rema to make [him] a nice cold lemonade and bring it to [him].” This part kind of freaked me out a bit. He could easily go to the kitchen and get himself something, or even have Isabel bring it back for him, yet he tells her to get Rema to do it. Rema’s response is even more chilling to me, she tells Isabel that she will “make the lemonade and [Isabel] can take it.” She is very fearful of The Kid for something, and she can’t even bare to bring him a glass of lemonade. Something is going on in this household between this characters, and it almost frightens me inside somehow because of the mysteriousness of it.
Also quite odd and intriguing is the recurrence of this tiger on the property. We never actually see it or know why it is there, but it just is and we know the people can’t go near it. Isabel’s aunt and uncle even have hired a crew of grounds people to let them know where this tiger is at all times. At first I had thought this tiger was some sort of metaphor or symbol for The Kid, but then there is a point in the story where the tiger is in The Kid’s study, and he cannot even go in there. The tiger doesn’t do anything, and I’m not even sure if it has any sort of role or significance in this story besides scaring the characters. Maybe that’s it, maybe the tiger isn’t supposed to have a deeper meaning. Maybe its one and only purpose is to arouse curiosity in readers and scare the inhabitants of this house into staying away from it.
“Bestiary” was a quite interesting read. It’s subtle undertone of fear and pain help to reveal its classification of a magical realist story.