49 pages 1 hour read

Ha Jin

The Bridegroom

Fiction | Short Story Collection | Adult | Published in 2000

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Symbols & Motifs

The Tiger

In “A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find,” a director of a television show insists that one of his star actors, Huping, fight a real tiger in order to ensure that a scene looks as realistic as possible. This tiger, throughout the story, acts a symbol for ambition. Director Yu, for example, cares more about shooting the scene successfully than he does Huping’s health. After the first shooting of the scene with the tiger, Huping seems to have lost his mind and gets hospitalized for “mild schizophrenia” (59). Nevertheless, the director insists on re-shooting the scene. This time, the tiger comes even closer to harming Huping, while Huping’s mental health remains out of balance. Still, Director Yu insists on using Huping to film a third take of the scene. Like the tiger itself, Director Yu’s ambition is untamable and dangerous, and ultimately harmful to Huping’s sanity.

With the tiger as a symbol for unchecked ambition, it becomes clearer why Huping loses his mind. After fighting the real tiger for the first time, Huping claims, “I killed him! I’m the number-one tiger-fighter!” (58). From this moment on in the story, Huping is unable to see himself as anything but a real tiger-fighter.