Depiction Of Indian Society In The White Tiger

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga depicts the life story of a low-caste servant in Bangalore India attempting to escape the social and mental obstacles of the caste system which limit his destiny. Adiga uses an epistolary format to detail the relationship between India and Chinas ‘democracy’ through a series of letters between Balram and the Chinese Premier, Mr Jiabao. Adiga’s letter format reveals a playful and ironic style while also reinforcing the idea that although India pretends to be the world’s most democratic state, there are many similarities between India’s democracy and communist China. Balram is restricted by family relationships, societal preconceptions, and a servant mentality restricting him from breaking free of his servitude. Adiga uses a combination of literary techniques and conventions to communicate the metaphoric ‘dark and light’ of Indian society through the point of view of a low-caste servant rising against the caste system.

Adiga uses an epistolary format to create a layered narrative, dense with symbolism and reoccurring motifs which reference Indian society. Presenting the tale in a series of letters enables Adiga to construct a confessional and conversational tone as Balram details his conflicting journey to becoming a self-made man. The series of letters to the Chinese premier directs attention to the similarities between India’s democracy and communist China. Both tiger economies oppress the poor and enrich their nobles in a system of endless perils for those in the low caste. The convention of telling Balram’s story through a series of letters, creates a relationship between the reader through engaging a first-person point of view and allowing the reader to claim their own perspective on the Balram. Letters are personal, but they are also a constructed façade, they have a specific point of view which can both charm and repel the reader as they are taken through the journey in a series of changing tones, from the judgemental to the judged. From the flippant and insightful comment at first seems a simple case of everyone wants what they do not have, “See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of?? Losing weight and looking like the poor.” But even this is layered, the poor are thin because they are starving, they have no choice. The rich can choose, and yet they are still not satisfied even though they have so much more than the poor. Money makes people hungry and voracious, like a tiger. Poverty and servitude are life in the rooster coop – where the chickens even turn on one another rather than try to work together to escape. Intermittently the reader can reflect on the difference between the words and actions of the narrators, this requires active rather than passive reading as the reader must empathize and consider how they would potentially act under similar circumstances.

A clear example of the use of symbolism regarding the caste system can be found in the name of the book, The White Tiger. Animal references are found throughout the book, people are referred to as chickens in a rooster coop, knowing they are doomed but doing nothing to stop it, “Go to Old Delhi, and look at the way they keep chickens there in the market. Hundreds of pale hens and brightly colored roosters, stuffed tightly into wire-mesh cages. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them. They know they are next, yet they cannot rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop, which is symbolic to the low caste system.” Humans as a commodity is also a recurring theme, poverty, overcrowding and hunger are a regular part of the weight of life of the lower classes in Indian society. In contrast to the normal chickens, Balram sees himself as a White Tiger. Something rare and dangerous, not like the others. Indian tigers live in the jungle and are dangerous predators. They are not confined by the coop or the other constraints of those around them. Tigers cannot be caged, and they must kill to survive. The contrast between referring to the others a chickens, and referring to himself as a Tiger symbolizes that he is free of rules and constraints, but also a danger to others.

An example of where the reader must question the reliability of the narrator can be found when Balram is rationalizing the murder of his master. “But isn’t it likely that everyone in this world…has killed someone or other on their way to the top?…All I wanted was a chance to be a man – and for that, one murder is enough.” The method of slitting Ashok’s throat symbolizes the traditional methods of slaughtering animals, particularly rosters. The reader is lulled by his philosophical discussions of politics and society before being taken into a spiral of moral corruption and murder in an attempt for Balram to leave the ‘Dark’ of Indian society.

Adiga portrays an India that has lost both its traditional social structure and outgrown its conventional moral framework where money seeds corruption. Balram description of Light and Dark disrupts the traditional associations of light as virtue and darkness as immorality, reflecting the upset of moral values. Light is personified throughout the story as the wealthy members who do whatever necessary to secure their power and money. In contrast, Rooster Coop logic dominates Dark India: the lower caste system is manipulated out of fear to behave dutifully to their family and religion not out of sincerity, but out of desire for self-success. In the midst of Balram’s moral corruption, he creates his own moral framework based on his self identification of a ‘white tiger’: a rare, superior creature exempt from the rules.


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