Post Colonial India; a Land of Rottenness and Corruption
Aravind Adiga’s Epistolary novel “The White Tiger” is, at its core, a tale of “rottenness and corruption,” told through the eyes of Balram Halwai, a man born to “the darkness” of India. The narrative comments upon the vast inequalities of corruption in modern-day India at a systematic & individual level. With that being said, there is a certain –small- amount of morality and “humanity” demonstrated in the novel, however, it only serves to highlight how truly corrupted and rotten Indian society is.
From the perspective of anti-hero balram Halwai, the reader is goven a first-hand account of the “debauchery” present throughout the entirety of India. Balram is depicted as being a victim of this systematic inequality from the moment of his birth. He was “born to the darkness” of India in Laxmangarh, a village with “defunct” and “broken” infrastructure, and with children who are “too lean for their age,” this poverty within the village is contrasted with the “four animals” – the landlords who “feed upon the village”-. These landlords live in “high walled mansions” and come to the village only to “steal” from the people. Furthermore, Balram explains how India’s “democracy” works from quite early on in the text, serving to further India’s depiction as a land of “corruption” and “scum”. The fact that Balram is “India’s most faithful voter” and yet had never been “inside a voting booth” demonstrates how, in India, votes are sold. This corrupt democracy is protected through violence; people wanting to cast their own votes being “murdered” and “stamped back into the earth” by both politicians and the police themselves, representing not only the unfairness of the system, but the outright violence of it. This corruption of the political system is affirmed even more-so by “The Great Socialist” – the “voice of the poor” – when he pressures the landlords for “one and a half million rupees” in order to continue to “allow” them to steal coal from “government mines.” Not only does this represent the bribery which is a prevalent issue throughout India, but also the way in which the poor are “trapped” in the darkness, because even those who claim to be “the voice of… the disenfranchised” steal from them. Through Balram, the reader is given a keen insight into the rottenness and corruption which pervades all facets of Indian society.
However, whilst Balram emphasises the unethicalness of India’s political and social system, it is important to remember that he himself is a man of “near total dishonesty”. He professes to being a “monster” who was willing to see his family “hunted, beaten and burned alive” in order to become a “free man” and ascend into “the light” of India. Balram, whilst certainly born to a bad situation, was never forced to murder Mr. Ashok. Balram chose to “pierce his throat”, even though he claims to know “right from wrong,” demonstrating that he is a “beast,” a “pervert… of nature,” completely lacking in morals, and therefore, a man of rottenness. Even prior to Mr. Ashok’s murder, Balram is depicted as a natural liar, lying that he had “four years’ experience” as a driver in order to get his job with Mr. Ashok, and also lying to Ashok that he “sends [money] home” to his family. This second lie is arguably more revealing of Balram’s true nature in that is not only depicts him as a liar, but also as a man with a complete and utter lack of empathy, or morality, in regards to his family, foreshadowing his decision to allow them to be “destroyed”. Whilst Balram attempts to portray India as the sole source of rottenness of his story, the sole antagonist, as a “lawless” nation of greed and corruption, Adiga subsequently portrays Balram himself as a the living embodiment of Indian society.
With that in mind, however, Adiga does ensure that there are a number of morally correct events within the novel. For example, Mr. Ashok is shown to have raised Balram’s wages without him “even asking”, which represents that although Mr. Ashok is a man “with a big belly”, he is still capable of kindness. However, it is this kindness of Mr. Ashok, the fact that he is “too trusting”, which causes Balram to name him “the Lamb”. Mr. Ashok’s kindness, and subsequent lacking of “instincts… of a Landlord”, are what lead Balram to believe that he –and masters like him (kind, compassionate)- “must be weeded out.” Therefore, Mr. Ashok’s few moments of kindness and morality in the text serve primarily to highlight how such things are not valued in Indian society, further alluding to the rottenness of the nation; how it is ruled by greed and corruption, by “jungle law”. Also, Balram’s primary act of kindness in the text, “[going back” for Dharem after he “pierced [Mr. Ashok’s] throat”, whilst initially seen by the reader as an act of morality, is later overshadowed by Balram stating that he might have to “kill” Dharem if he continues to grow up “with no morals.” Almost all of the acts of kindness in The White Tiger are morbidly twisted into either being immortal, or simply looked upon disparagingly by Indian Society, resulting in a powerful comment by Adiga that rottenness and immorality are the only things valued in Indian society.
Through The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga makes comment upon the complete lack of morals within modern India; upon the fact that the only two destinies within the society are to “eat – or get eaten up”. This comment is made by emphasizing throughout the novel that the only way to be “treated like a man,” to escape the cycle of “perpetual servitude”, is to be a “monster” completely lacking in morals. Furthermore, Adiga makes certain to demonstrate how kindness and humanity are seen as nothing but “weakness” in Indian society, therefore consolidating the reader’s perception of India as a land of depravity, and of unscrupulousness.
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Aravind Adiga’s Epistolary novel “The White Tiger” is, at its core, a tale of “rottenness and corruption,” told through the eyes of Balram Halwai, a man born to “the darkness” […]