Therapeutic goals: reflection on what is actually normal, overlap with one’s own psychotic illness, different interpretations of the tiger motif, self-assertion in life, vocabulary enrichment, improvement of reading technique, alleviation of social shyness
Recommended age group: 18+
Primary target group: clients with psychotic illness
Secondary target group: wider use in general in group therapy (neurotic disorders, personality disorders)
Form of work: group with one therapist
Brief content of the masterpiece:
It is a metaphorical story of the young Thomas Tracy, who one day is joined by a tiger, which is actually a black panther, to awaken his love for the girl Laura and teach him other important things he needs to transform into a man.The tiger appears in the story and then disappears for a short time only to reappear. But it is necessary to understand the tiger more as a symbol. It can be a kind of second self that is energetic, spontaneous and unfettered by convention. The other self full of emotions that many people suppress in themselves.A tiger can be imaginary, but also real.
A tiger can be love, which the author himself mentions at the end of the book.
At the age of 21, young man Thomas Tracy arrives from New York to San Francisco to become a coffee carrier in Otto Seyfang’s warehouse. After 14 days of work, Thomas comes to his superior Valora saying that he would like to be promoted to the position of coffee taster, which is the most prestigious position in this company and many employees have been waiting for it for many years. Thomas does not want to overtake anyone in waiting, nor does he wish for the death of the oldest coffee taster to free up his place. His only argument why he should get a place is that he knows how to taste and knows good coffee. He conducts the conversation when the tiger is with him. But he falls asleep and Thomas gives in to the threat that he could also lose his current position as carrier.
Thomas Tracy falls in love with a girl he meets on the street in front of the company where he works. The girl’s name is Laura Luthyová, and Tracy’s tiger meets Laura’s tigress. One day he is invited to lunch with Laura’s parents. Laura went to get her report card and Tracy was left alone with his mother. She offered him candies and when Tracy ate a few, he kissed his mother, not really knowing why. Unfortunately, the kiss was spotted by Laura, who had just returned from school. Her tigress went berserk, Tracy’s tiger ran away, and Tracy left too. The next day he waited for Laura in vain. Tracy resigned and left town. He returned only after six years and walked around the city with the tiger. It caused an uproar, people started running and hiding because they saw Tracy’s tiger. The police arrived and shot the tiger, but he managed to escape. Tracy was arrested and taken to a psychiatric examination by dr. Pingitzer, who found that he was perfectly healthy. However, the young doctor Scatter did not believe this, and Tracy went to the Bellevue asylum, where Laura Luthy was also, who was destroyed like her tigress. After Tracy’s arrival in Bellevue, interesting things began to happen. Patients began to meet more, their condition improved. The hopeless condition of Laura Luthyová also improved. Nobody understood what was happening, the doctors tried to stop it, but they couldn’t.
The policeman Huzinga, who was in charge of the whole case, also went to the institution to see Tracy. Huzinga trusted Tracy that he could find the tiger for them. Tracy needed to stage Warren Street six years ago, to turn back the clock a little. Coffee stores have been restored with sacks that Tracy will wear. At a certain hour, Tracy’s love Laura Luthyová was also supposed to appear on the street.
All this really happened. When Laura came, the tiger also appeared. With her and Tracy, they went to the picture shop, where, according to the agreement, there was a cage. Only Tracy and Laura left the store. When the police officers, who were watching the whole event, entered the store, they did not find any animal in it, the cage was empty. Tracy and Laura go away together and the author ends the story by stating that the tiger is love.
The figure of the tiger also appears in other works by William Saroyan.“Thomas Tracy and perhaps all of William Saroyan’s characters have a tiger because they carry youth within them”.
Description of the possibilities of professional therapeutic work:
With that book, it worked for me to leave all interpretation possibilities purely up to the clients. As the story progressed, the clients began to find out and think about how things are with the tiger. Is it real, if not, then what could this motive mean. They learned to express their ideas and thoughts in front of others without shame, because every idea and opinion is welcome. It is important to create an atmosphere of acceptance so that clients are not afraid to say anything. Some naturally read more, others hardly at all, but everyone got a chance to express themselves and also read aloud an excerpt from the book.
Description of experience from own work with a literary piece:
With a 6-member group of clients with psychotic illness, we read this book over and over. There was also a client in the group whose mother tongue is Polish. He was able to get involved, the content of the excerpts read was briefly explained to him, so the language in this case was not a barrier for the client to interpret the book himself. A very interesting group dynamic and interaction arose, when almost all the students got involved and worked on the interpretation of the book, helping a Polish-speaking colleague to understand the content of the book.
Together we came to many interesting associations. So what does “having a tiger” mean for clients?
It may mean that they are delusional. A fruitful debate developed here and the clients spontaneously talked about what delusions they suffered from, what it was like for them and when they realized that it was a delusion, something that is not real.
There is a scene in the book when Tracy goes to apply for a job as a coffee taster and his tiger makes him very brave, even daring. The clients perceived this positively, they agreed that it is good sometimes to be braver in order to get a better place/job. But then the tiger fell asleep and Tracy became impenetrable again, there was no one to “pave a path” for him, as one of the clients remarked. Here, a debate developed as to whether the clients have someone who helps them, perhaps does things for them as well.
As the story progressed, the clients began to think more about whether to understand the tiger positively or negatively. For some it was a delusion, a sign that Tracy is mentally ill, the tiger is a mirage, a shadow side of the personality, a bad idea, but also, for example, a bad company that leads a person astray.
For other clients, it was the energy that drove Tracy forward, gave him the strength to stand up for himself, to be courageous, self-confident. All ideas were based on personal lives and stories of clients.In the end, the clients came to believe that the tiger is an imaginary friend, positive emotions, a good side of nature. They really liked the end of the book, where we learned that a tiger is love. And we need love to heal.
William Saroyan – Tracy’s Tiger. 6th edition. Prague: Argo, 2020. 133 pages. ISBN 978-80-257-3181-9
Tracy’s Tiger – Wikipedia (wikipedia.org)
It didn’t pass language editing!
The recommendation created by:
Mgr. Michaela Kajfoszová, Center for health Karviná (Czechia), psychotherapy station, psychologist in health care, May 28, 2023
The recommendation from Slovak to English translated by: Mária Trechová, Workplace: PRO SKIZP – Association for support of Slovak Chamber of Physicists, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Educators, c. a. Bratislava, Slovakia
Recommended method of citation:
Kajfoszová Michaela. 2023. Proven procedure to the literary work Tracy’s Tiger (William Saroyan). In Kotrbová, K. et al: Biblioterapia.sk. Bratislava: PRO SKIZP – Association to support the development of the Slovak Chamber of Clinical Physics, Laboratory Diagnosticians, Language Speech Therapists and Therapeutic Pedagogues, 2023. ISBN 978-80-974667-0-1 Available on: https://www.biblioterapia.sk/en/publikacia/proven-procedure-to-literary-work-tracys-tiger/
The contribution was created thanks to support from the European Union Erasmus+ program, Key action 2 – Cooperation between organizations and institutions, KA210 – Small partnerships for cooperation in the field of education and training. Project name “Prototype of online teaching aid for bibliotherapy”, project number 2022-1-SK01-KA210-VET-000082483. It represents the opinion of the author and the European Commission is not responsible for any use of the information contained therein.