The White Tiger is a novel by Aravind Adiga that was published in 2008 and won the Booker Prize. It tells the story of Balram Halwai, a poor boy from a low caste who rises from being a servant to a successful entrepreneur in modern India. The novel is narrated by Balram himself, who writes a series of letters to the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, explaining his life story and his views on India. The main theme of the novel is corruption, which is portrayed as a pervasive and inevitable phenomenon in Indian society and politics. In this essay, I will analyze how corruption is depicted in the novel, how it affects Balram's journey from servitude to entrepreneurship, how he uses corruption as a survival strategy, and how corruption serves as a critique of India's modernization.
Corruption in India
One of the most striking features of the novel is the depiction of corruption in different aspects of Indian society and politics. Corruption is shown to be widespread, systemic, and ingrained in the culture and mentality of the people. Corruption affects every level of society, from the poor villagers who have to bribe the local officials for basic services, to the rich businessmen who have to pay off the politicians and the police for protection and favors. Corruption also affects every sphere of life, from education to health care to justice. For example, Balram describes how he had to drop out of school because his family could not afford to pay the teacher's fees, how his father died of tuberculosis because he could not get proper treatment at the hospital, and how he was falsely accused of murder because he did not have money to hire a lawyer.
Corruption is also shown to be deeply rooted in the history and culture of India. Balram traces the origins of corruption to the colonial era, when the British exploited and oppressed the Indians for their own benefit. He also links corruption to the caste system, which divides the society into rigid hierarchies based on birth and occupation. Balram belongs to the lowest caste, known as the Halwais or the sweet-makers, who are considered to be dirty and inferior by the higher castes. Balram argues that the caste system creates a mentality of servitude and submission among the lower castes, who are conditioned to obey and serve their masters without question or resistance. He also argues that the caste system prevents the lower castes from aspiring to a better life or achieving their potential, as they are doomed to a life of poverty and oppression.
Balram's Journey from Servitude to Entrepreneurship
The novel follows Balram's journey from being a poor and oppressed servant to becoming a rich and powerful entrepreneur. Balram's journey is driven by his desire to escape from his caste and class oppression and to achieve his dreams and ambitions. Balram's journey is also marked by his transformation from being a loyal and obedient servant to being a rebellious and ruthless killer. Balram's journey is symbolized by three metaphors that he uses throughout the novel: the rooster coop, the master-servant relationship, and the white tiger.
The Rooster Coop
One of the most powerful metaphors that Balram uses to describe the condition of the poor and oppressed in India is the rooster coop. He explains that the rooster coop is a cage where thousands of roosters are crammed together, waiting to be slaughtered. The roosters see each other being killed, but they do not rebel or try to escape, because they have been brainwashed into accepting their fate. Balram compares the rooster coop to the condition of the lower castes and classes in India, who are trapped in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, and violence. He says that the poor are like roosters, who are exploited and abused by their masters, but do not resist or revolt, because they have been conditioned to believe that they deserve their misery and that there is no way out.
Balram also explains that the rooster coop is maintained by two forces: fear and family. He says that the poor are afraid of losing their jobs, their homes, their lives, if they disobey or challenge their masters. He also says that the poor are bound by their family ties, which oblige them to share their income and support their relatives. Balram says that these two forces keep the poor in a state of dependency and servility, preventing them from breaking free from the rooster coop.
The Master-Servant Relationship
Another metaphor that Balram uses to describe his journey is the master-servant relationship. He narrates how his relationship with his employers changes over time and how he eventually kills his master. Balram starts working as a driver for Mr. Ashok, a rich landlord from his village who moves to Delhi with his wife, Pinky Madam. Balram initially admires and respects Mr. Ashok, who is kind and generous to him. He also develops a bond with him, as they share some common experiences and interests. Balram considers Mr. Ashok as his master and himself as his servant.
However, Balram's relationship with Mr. Ashok deteriorates as he witnesses the corruption and injustice that Mr. Ashok is involved in. He sees how Mr. Ashok bribes the politicians and the police to get contracts and favors. He also sees how Mr. Ashok treats him as an inferior and disposable object, who can be replaced or sacrificed at any time. Balram realizes that Mr. Ashok is not different from his father, who was also a landlord who exploited and oppressed his tenants. Balram begins to resent and hate Mr. Ashok, who represents everything that he wants to escape from.
Balram's relationship with Mr. Ashok reaches a breaking point when he is forced to take the blame for a hit-and-run accident that Pinky Madam commits. Pinky Madam runs over a child on the road while driving drunk, but she flees the scene without facing any consequences. Mr. Ashok asks Balram to sign a confession letter, promising him that he will not go to jail and that he will be rewarded for his loyalty. Balram agrees to sign the letter, but he feels betrayed and humiliated by Mr. Ashok's request. He decides that he will not be a scapegoat for his master's crimes anymore.
opportunity to escape from the rooster coop and to start a new life for himself. He kills Mr. Ashok and steals his money and car, which he uses to flee to Bangalore.
The White Tiger
The final metaphor that Balram uses to describe his journey is the white tiger. He identifies himself as a rare and exceptional creature who can break free from the rooster coop and achieve his dreams and ambitions. He says that he was born with a special talent and intelligence that set him apart from the rest of the people in his caste and class. He also says that he was destined to become a white tiger, as he was given a sign by a fortune teller when he was a child. The fortune teller told him that he had two destinies: one of darkness and one of light, and that he had to choose between them.
Balram chooses the destiny of light, which represents his aspiration to become a successful entrepreneur in modern India. He says that he is one of the few people who can see the opportunities and possibilities that India offers to those who are willing to take risks and break the rules. He says that he is not afraid of being different or being alone, as he knows that he is special and unique. He compares himself to a white tiger, who is rare and majestic, who does not follow the herd, who does not fear anyone or anything.
Corruption as a Survival Strategy
Balram does not regret or repent his actions, but rather justifies them and views them as a necessary evil to survive and succeed in India. He argues that corruption is inevitable and unavoidable in a country where the rich and powerful exploit and oppress the poor and weak. He argues that corruption is the only way to break free from the rooster coop and to achieve his dreams and ambitions. He argues that corruption is the only way to adapt to the new economy and society that India has become.
The Darkness and the Light
Balram contrasts the rural and urban areas of India, which he calls the darkness and the light respectively. He says that the darkness represents the backwardness, poverty, ignorance, and violence that plague the countryside, where most of the people live in misery and oppression. He says that the light represents the progress, wealth, education, and freedom that characterize the cities, where most of the opportunities and possibilities are concentrated. He says that he was born in the darkness, but he moved to the light by becoming a driver in Delhi.
Balram also contrasts his old life in the darkness with his new life in the light. He says that his old life was full of suffering, fear, and servitude, where he had no identity or dignity of his own. He says that his new life is full of happiness, confidence, and entrepreneurship, where he has created his own identity and dignity for himself. He says that he has changed from being a servant to being a master, from being a follower to being a leader, from being a victim to being a victor.
The Morality of Murder
Balram rationalizes his decision to kill his master and how he deals with the consequences. He says that he did not kill Mr. Ashok out of hatred or revenge, but out of necessity and self-interest. He says that he killed Mr. Ashok because he wanted to live, because he wanted to be free, because he wanted to be successful. He says that he killed Mr. Ashok because it was the only way to escape from the rooster coop and to become a white tiger.
Balram also says that he does not feel any guilt or remorse for killing Mr. Ashok or for leaving behind his family in the village. He says that he does not care about morality or justice, as they are irrelevant and meaningless in a corrupt and unjust society. He says that he only cares about survival and success, as they are the only things that matter in a competitive and ruthless society. He says that he has no regrets or apologies for what he has done or what he has become.
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Balram creates his own taxi service in Bangalore, which he calls White Tiger Drivers. He hires drivers from different parts of India, who are poor and oppressed like him, but who have dreams and ambitions like him. He trains them to be professional and courteous drivers, who can cater to the needs and preferences of their customers. He also teaches them to be smart and cunning drivers, who can exploit the loopholes and opportunities in the system. He says that he is not only a driver, but also a businessman, a manager, a teacher, and a mentor.
Balram also adapts to the new economy and society that India has become. He says that India is no longer a country of castes and classes, but a country of entrepreneurs and consumers. He says that India is no longer a country of roosters and tigers, but a country of sheep and lions. He says that India is no longer a country of darkness and light, but a country of shades and colors. He says that he is not only an Indian, but also a global citizen, who can communicate and cooperate with people from different countries and cultures.
Corruption as a Critique of India's Modernization
The novel exposes the flaws and inequalities of India's development and democracy, which are based on corruption and exploitation. The novel questions the validity and viability of India's modernization, which is achieved at the expense of the majority of its people and its environment. The novel challenges the assumptions and expectations of India's modernization, which are often idealized and exaggerated by the media and the elites.
The Failure of Democracy
Balram criticizes the political system and the elections in India as being corrupt and manipulated. He says that the politicians are dishonest and greedy, who only care about their own interests and power. He says that the elections are rigged and fraudulent, who only serve to legitimize the status quo and to deceive the people. He says that the democracy in India is a sham and a joke, which does not represent or respect the will or the rights of the people.
Balram also criticizes the political culture and the political participation in India as being apathetic and ignorant. He says that the people are indifferent and passive, who do not care about their own welfare or future. He says that the people are uninformed and uneducated, who do not know how to choose or demand their own leaders or policies. He says that the people are manipulated and exploited, who do not realize how they are being cheated or oppressed by their own government.
The Rise of Globalization
Balram observes the effects of globalization and capitalism on India and its people. He says that globalization has brought new opportunities and possibilities to India, which has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world. He says that globalization has also brought new challenges and problems to India, which has become one of the most unequal and unstable societies in the world. He says that globalization has created winners and losers in India, who live in different worlds and realities.
Balram also observes how globalization has changed the culture and identity of India and its people. He says that globalization has made India more open and diverse, which has enriched its culture and heritage. He says that globalization has also made India more homogenous and superficial, which has eroded its culture and identity. He says that globalization has created hybridity and complexity in India, which has challenged its traditions and values.
The Cost of Progress
Balram reflects on the social and environmental problems caused by India's rapid growth and industrialization. He says that progress has brought benefits and improvements to India, which has lifted millions of people out of poverty and misery. He says that progress has also brought costs and damages to India, which has harmed millions of people and animals. He says that progress has created contradictions and paradoxes in India, which has endangered its sustainability and harmony.
Balram also reflects on his own role and responsibility in contributing to or solving these problems. He says that he is proud and happy of his achievements and success, which have made him rich and powerful. He says that he is also aware and concerned of his actions and consequences, which have made him corrupt and violent. He says that he is both a part of the problem and a part of the solution in India, which has made him conflicted and confused.
In conclusion, The White Tiger is a novel that explores the theme of corruption in different aspects of Indian society and politics. The novel follows Balram's journey from being a poor and oppressed servant to becoming a rich and powerful entrepreneur in modern India. The novel shows how corruption affects Balram's journey, how he uses corruption as a survival strategy, and how corruption serves as a critique of India's modernization. The novel presents a complex and realistic portrait of India, which is both fascinating and disturbing, both hopeful and hopeless, both light and dark.
What is the significance of the title \"The White Tiger\"?
The title \"The White Tiger\" refers to the main character and narrator of the novel, Balram Halwai, who identifies himself as a rare and exceptional creature who can break free from the rooster coop and achieve his dreams and ambitions. The white tiger symbolizes Balram's talent and intelligence, his rebellion and ruthlessness, his uniqueness and individuality.
What is the role of the letters to Wen Jiabao in the novel?
The letters to Wen Jiabao are the form and structure of the novel, which is written as a series of letters from Balram to the Chinese premier, who is visiting India. The letters serve as a device to introduce Balram's life story and his views on India. The letters also serve as a device to create a contrast and a dialogue between India and China, two emerging powers in the world. The letters also serve as a device to create a sense of irony and humor, as Balram addresses his letters to a leader of a communist country, while he himself is a capitalist entrepreneur.
What are some of the themes and motifs in the novel?
Some of the themes and motifs in the novel are corruption, servitude, entrepreneurship, darkness, light, rooster coop, white tiger, master-servant relationship, democracy, globalization, progress.
What are some of the literary techniques and devices used in the novel?
Some of the literary techniques and devices used in the novel are satire, irony, humor, metaphor, symbolism, foreshadowing, flashback, unreliable narrator.
What are some of the similarities and differences between Balram and Mr. Ashok?
Some of the similarities between Balram and Mr. Ashok are that they both come from the same village, they both move to Delhi, they both have dreams and ambitions, they both are involved in corruption. Some of the differences between Balram and Mr. Ashok are that they belong to different castes and classes, they have different personalities and values, they have different relationships with their families and friends, they have different outcomes and fates.