A Tiger in The Zoo: Poem Notes & Explanation Class 10 NCERT English CBSE

The poem “A Tiger in the Zoo” by Leslie Norris uses vivid imagery and contrasts to explore the themes of freedom vs. captivity, and the loss of a wild animal’s natural life. Through the tiger’s confinement, the poem also raises questions about the ethics of keeping animals in zoos. Click here for Q/Ans.

Summary and Central Idea of “A Tiger in the Zoo”


The poem describes a magnificent tiger trapped in a zoo cage. It paces restlessly, filled with a quiet rage despite its soft movements. The poem contrasts the tiger’s natural habitat and power as a predator with its current confinement and apathy towards visitors. While the tiger acknowledges its surroundings like the patrolling cars, it finds solace by gazing at the stars, a symbol of the freedom it yearns for.

Central Idea:

The central idea of the poem is the loss of freedom and the struggle of a wild animal in captivity. The poem evokes empathy for the tiger and criticizes the practice of keeping wild creatures confined in zoos. It highlights the conflict between showcasing animals for human entertainment and the psychological toll it takes on them.

Key Points:

  • The first stanza introduces the tiger, restless and angry despite its soft paws, confined to a small space.
  • Stanza 2 and 3 paint a contrasting picture of the tiger’s natural habitat, where it would be a fearsome hunter.
  • The harsh reality returns in stanza 4, with the tiger’s strength rendered useless behind bars. It ignores the zoo visitors, lost in its longing.
  • The final stanza shows a bittersweet ending. Though confined, the tiger retains a connection to the night sky, a reminder of its lost freedom.

A Tiger in the Zoo: Stanza-by-Stanza Explanation

The poem explores the theme of freedom vs. captivity. The majestic tiger, a powerful predator in its natural habitat, is reduced to a frustrated and caged animal in the zoo. The poem evokes a sense of sympathy for the tiger’s plight and the loss of its natural instincts.

Let’s break the poem stanza wise :

Stanza 1:

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


  1. Stalks: Moves stealthily or cautiously.
  2. Vivid: Bright, intense, or strikingly clear.
  3. Stripes: Long, narrow bands of color, such as those found on a tiger’s fur.
  4. Pads: The soft underside of an animal’s paw.
  5. Velvet: A soft, smooth fabric often associated with luxury.
  6. Quiet rage: A subdued or restrained anger.


  • The poem opens with a vivid image of the tiger. Its stripes are described as “vivid,” highlighting its natural beauty.
  • The tiger is confined to a small space, just “a few steps of his cage.” This restricted movement creates a stark contrast to its natural freedom i.e. contrast between the vastness of its natural habitat and the “few steps” of its cage
  • “Pads of velvet quiet” describes the tiger’s silent movement, hinting at its predatory nature even in captivity.
  • The final line, “In his quiet rage,” reveals the underlying anger and frustration of the caged animal. The rage stems from its captivity. The juxtaposition of quiet movement and rage hints at the tiger’s suppressed power.

The poet describes the tiger pacing within its cage, highlighting the contrast between its vibrant appearance (“vivid stripes”) and the confined space it occupies. The tiger moves quietly (“pads of velvet quiet”) yet with a sense of suppressed anger (“quiet rage”).

Stanza 2:

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


  1. Lurking: Moving stealthily or hiding with the intent to ambush or observe.
  2. Shadow: Darkness cast by an object blocking light.
  3. Sliding: Moving smoothly or silently.
  4. Grass: Vegetation with narrow leaves that cover the ground.
  5. Plump: Well-rounded or chubby.
  6. Deer: A group of ruminant mammals with antlers, often found in forests.


  • This stanza depicts the tiger’s natural habitat. It should be “lurking in shadow,” a predator perfectly adapted to its environment. It depict the tiger’s natural stealth and agility in the wild.
  • The long grass and water hole suggest a lush jungle, teeming with life. This is where the tiger would naturally stalk its prey – “plump deer.” It reinforces the idea of the tiger as a predator in its natural environment.

Here, the poet suggests what the tiger’s natural habitat should be like. It should be in the wild, hidden in shadows and grass near a water source where prey like deer pass by. This stanza contrasts the confinement of the zoo with the freedom of the wild.

Stanza 3:

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


  1. Snarling: Making aggressive or threatening sounds, often accompanied by bared teeth.
  2. Jungle: Dense, tropical forest with lush vegetation.
  3. Edge: The boundary or perimeter of something.
  4. Fangs: Long, pointed teeth, typically found in carnivorous animals.
  5. Claws: Sharp, curved nails found on the feet of certain animals, used for gripping or tearing prey.
  6. Terrorizing: Causing extreme fear or distress to someone or something.


  • Here, the poem explores the tiger’s power and wild nature. It should be “snarling around houses / At the jungle’s edge” portrays the tiger interacting with human settlements, potentially posing a threat.
  • “Baring his white fangs, his claws” creates a powerful image of the tiger’s raw power and ferocity. This is a stark contrast to the caged tiger on display.
  • “Terrorising the village” highlights the fear the tiger inspires in its natural habitat.

The poet further emphasizes the unsuitability of the tiger’s current environment by depicting where it belongs. The tiger should be roaming freely near the edge of the jungle, instilling fear in nearby villages with its menacing presence, displaying its power with bared fangs and claws.

Stanza 4:

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


  1. Concrete: A building material made from a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, and water.
  2. Cell: A small, confined space, such as a prison cell or animal enclosure.
  3. Strength: Physical power or force.
  4. Ignoring: Paying no attention to; disregarding.
  5. Visitors: People who come to see or observe something, such as animals in a zoo.


  • This stanza brings us back to the harsh reality of the zoo which is an unnatural environment. The tiger is now “locked in a concrete cell,” a stark contrast to the freedom it once enjoyed.
  • “His strength behind bars” emphasizes the frustration of the tiger. Its natural power is caged and therefore rendered useless in captivity.
  • “Stalking the length of his cage” emphasizes the repetitive and restricted movement imposed by the cage.
  • The final line, “Ignoring visitors,” shows the tiger’s apathy towards its audience. It’s lost in its own thoughts and longing for freedom demonstrating its detachment from its current situation.

This stanza describes the tiger’s captivity more directly. It is confined within a “concrete cell,” its natural strength contained by bars. Despite this, the tiger continues to pace back and forth in its cage, indifferent to the presence of visitors.

Stanza 5:

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


  1. Patrolling: Monitoring or guarding an area, typically by walking or driving around it.
  2. Brilliant: Exceptionally bright, shining, or intelligent.


  • The final stanza paints a melancholic picture. The tiger hears “the last voice at night,” which could be the zookeeper or security patrols on routine round, a reminder of its captivity and being put under human observation and supervision.
  • The “patrolling cars” symbolize the constant vigilance (watch) and confinement.
  • Despite its situation, the tiger retains a connection to nature. It stares at the “brilliant stars,” a reminder of the world beyond the zoo walls. It suggests a longing for the freedom.
  • The “brilliant” stars might symbolize the vastness and freedom it has lost.

The final stanza portrays the tiger’s isolation and longing for freedom. It listens to the sounds of the night, including the passing cars and perhaps the distant noises of the outside world. As it gazes up at the stars, the tiger’s brilliant eyes reflect a sense of longing or perhaps resignation to its captive existence.

Poetic Devices in ‘A Tiger in The Zoo’

The poem “A Tiger in the Zoo” utilizes several poetic devices to create a vivid picture and evoke emotions about the caged tiger. Here’s a breakdown of some key devices:

  • Theme: The central idea or message of a literary work. In this poem, one of the themes is the conflict between freedom and captivity, as well as the human imposition of control over nature.
  • Setting: The time and place in which a story or poem takes place. The setting of this poem includes both the physical environment of the zoo cage and the imagined natural habitat of the tiger in the wild.
  • Imagery: The poem is rich with sensory details that paint a picture of the tiger and its contrasting environments. Vivid stripes, velvet paws, long grass, and brilliant stars create a strong visual experience.
  • Metonymy: This is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is substituted with another word or phrase that is closely associated with it. For example, using “the crown” to refer to a monarch, or “the White House” to refer to the U.S. government. Here, in the 4th stanza, ‘strength’ refers to ‘body of the tiger’ and ‘bars’ refers to the ‘cage’ in the zoo.
  • Metaphor: The comparison of the tiger’s steps to “pads of velvet” implies the smooth, quiet movement of the tiger.
  • Personification: The tiger is referred to with pronouns like “he” and actions like “stalking” and “ignoring,” giving it human-like qualities and making its emotions more relatable.
  • Juxtaposition: Juxtaposition: The poem constantly contrasts the tiger’s natural world with its caged life. Stanza 2’s “lurking in shadow” is juxtaposed with the “few steps of his cage” in stanza 1. Similarly, the “plump deer” and “jungle’s edge” are far removed from the “concrete cell” and zoo visitors. This emphasizes the loss of freedom the tiger experiences. This emphasizes the unnaturalness of captivity.
  • Symbolism: The tiger itself symbolizes freedom and power in nature. The cage symbolizes confinement and the loss of these qualities. The stars represent the vastness beyond the zoo, a reminder of what the tiger has lost.
  • Enjambment: Lines often run on without punctuation breaks, creating a sense of flow and reflecting the tiger’s restless pacing within the cage.
  • Alliteration: The use of repeated consonant sounds like “s” in “stalks” and “stripes” or “v” in “velvet” and “vivid” can create a sense of texture or movement.
  • Irony: There is irony in the contrast between the majestic, powerful nature of the tiger and its confined, powerless existence in the zoo. The irony underscores the theme of captivity versus freedom and highlights the unnaturalness of keeping wild animals in captivity.

These devices work together to create a powerful and moving portrayal of the caged tiger’s plight. They allow the reader to experience the animal’s frustration, lost power, and lingering connection to the wild.

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