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none of the above

The first and last sentences of the first paragraph – “When she first began teaching, Alma promised herself that she would never wear a sweater with an apple on it… In two years of teaching third grade, the apple veto was the only vow she managed to keep” – do a good job of setting the story up for what will happen with Alma. She is at the same time hopeful about being able to help Peter in a personalized way and aware that she will probably fail. She wants to be able to treat Peter differently to prevent him from becoming a stereotypical survivor of abuse, just as she wants to keep herself from fitting into the stereotype of an elementary school teacher. It’s possible that Alma wants so badly to not be a stereotype because her husband was abused as a child and she is afraid that because she doesn’t have an equivalent tale of woe, he considers her childhood that of a typical white middle-class girl.

The story has to be set in a small, mostly rural town with a wildlife preserve nearby and, as Alma puts it, a “lopsided ratio of wildlife to humans” so that Peter’s possesion of a tiger cub is believable. The tale of the raccoon-eaten baby, also a product of the small-town setting, frames Alma’s understanding of a child in a family that keeps a wild animal as a pet. This also triggers Alma’s surprise at her reaction to first seein the tiger. Instead of immediately feeling as if she has to protect Peter from the tiger, as she would if instead she were faced with a raccoon chewing on a baby’s face, she asks it “what are you doing here?”, and so seems to recognize the tiger, almost as if it is some enemy she has fought before.

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