The Role Of Character’s Name Changing In The White Tiger
In the book, The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, the main character, Balram Halwai, name changes throughout the novel, reflecting his complex identity. The White Tiger is a story about how Balram, a man who grew up in India, living in poverty, went from being a driver and a servant to a businessman, Mr. Ashok, to being an entrepreneur and running his own successful business. The major theme in this story is about how the power of corruption can shape the people living in that society. Adiga gave Balram different names as the story went on, as a symbol for his path through life and how it reflects his social status.
At the beginning of the story, Balram had no identity. Since the day he was born, Balram’s family have called him ‘Munna’, which means “boy”. He was never given a real name. When Balram started school, his teacher asked him why his father and other family members never named him. Balram says, “‘He’s a rickshaw-puller, sir. He’s got no time to name me.’ ‘Don’t you have a granny? Aunts? Uncles?’ ‘They’ve got no time either”. Balram’s mother was too ill to ever name him and his father was always working and too tired. His other family members seemed to have a relative disinterest in Balram when he was a child, so that was how he ended up being called “boy”. Adiga purposely made Balram begin the story nameless, to show that he really started as a no one and from there he could only work his way up the social ladder.
Balram was determined to break out of the norm of the society in India. When Balram’s teacher found out he did not have a name, he took it upon himself to name him. He was named after the brother of a God. Balram’s last name is Halwai, which means ‘sweet maker’. In India, a person’s last name is their caste, which means their destiny. Because of Balram’s last name, he is able to get jobs at sweetshops easily. Balram wished that he could go back to a time when castes were orderly and everyone had a place in society. Balram said, “But if we were Halwais, then why was my father not making sweets but pulling a rickshaw? Why did I grow up breaking gulab jamuns and sweet pastries when and where I chose to?”. Now that the society was corrupt, it was almost impossible for the poor to be anything but poor for the rest of their lives. However, Balram was always a bright and resourceful person, and he always wanted to be someone important and to be in a position of power. One day, Balram heard that drivers make good money, so he rushed to take driving lessons. He then went out to find a rich person who need a driver, which is where he met Mr. Ashok, who decided to take a chance and hire Balram. That is how Balram escaped his village to live in the city, and it shows how Balram is slowly elevating his status. When Balram started working he was given a uniform, which made Balram feel important. In a way, the uniform symbolized how Balram beat the system. He was able to leave his destiny as a sweet maker, and make his own path. However, he was still not where he wanted to be.
Balram was given the nickname, ‘Country Mouse’ by fellow drivers. He was constantly being criticized for how little he knows. Balram had to overcome this nickname by being better than the other more experienced drivers.At this point, Balram started carrying more about his appearance. He even purchases clothes that were similar to some he had seen Mr. Ashok wear. Balram used those new clothes to make his way into a mall where only the rich were allowed. This shows how corrupt Balram was turning. He said, “Even as I was walking inside the mall, I was sure someone would say, Hey! That man is a paid driver!What’s he doing in here? There were guards in gray uniforms on every floor- all of them seemed to be watching me. It was my first taste of a fugitive life.” This quote shows how much more Balram craves to have and how he would break the rules to have it. Balram is seen beginning his transformation into his final identity.
Slowly, Balram was turning into Mr. Ashok. He was copying the words he’d say and the way he acted. Not only was he going through a transformation, but he was also being fully corrupted by the city. He lied and planned to cheat his boss. He now hated Mr.Ashok and held anger towards him. Balram waited for Mr.Ashok to collect his money from the bank and then he killed him and took the money for himself. Now, Balram was a wealthy man. He used that money to start his own driving business called, The White Tiger Drivers. After becoming an entrepreneur, Balmar named himself, Ashok Sharma, after his master that he murdered. Halwai was no longer a fitting name for him because now that he was successful, he needed a strong name to represent that success. The name Sharma is given amongst the highest members of the Hindu caste. Balramis very fond of his chandelier in his office and found it to be very clever how after he murdered his boss, he was able to hide out in the light rather in the dark
From a young age, Balram was an intelligent person and he was unlike anyone else. One day while Balram was at school, a man showed up wearing the finest suit Balram has seen. The man was an inspector and he wanted to see how well the children were able to read and answer questions. Belram was the only student who was able to read the sentences that the inspector wrote on the board and was able to correctly answer every question. The inspector said, “ ‘You young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals — the creature that comes along only once in a generation?’ I thought about it and said: ‘The white tiger’ ‘That’s what you are in this jungle.’” Balram is unlike all the other students because he has a natural intelligence and honesty. Since Balram is being compared to a white tiger, he feels like he is special and is capable of being someone important. The white tiger is what motivates Balram to fight to be free from being just a driver and a servant. The White tiger is what empowers Balram to get a job done when he is feeling fearful. When Balram goes to a zoo, he sees the white tiger and he says, ‘Then the thing behind the bamboo bars stopped moving. It turned its face to my face. The tiger’s eyes, like my master’s eyes have met mine so often in the mirror of the car. All at once, the tiger vanished’. Right after this quote, Balram faints and in a way,it seems as if in that moment he is reborn as the white tiger. He relates to the tiger because they are both trapped in a cage. The tiger in its enclosure and Balram trapped as a servant for life. After he faints, Balram gains the strength he needed to go through with his plan to murder Mr. Ashok.
In the end, Balrams found out that India was a place where entrepreneurs can find success, but only through theft, corruption, and murder. Balram achieved his goal of changing his life, but he paid the price for it. Balram says that Mr. Ashok did not deserve his fate. To him it was a sacrifice he had to make to elevate his status. He only had to kill one person, but he actually killed many people. Because he murdered Mr.Ashok, Balram’s whole family had to die and Balram had always knew that would happen. Balram went from being an innocent, poor, nameless boy from the bottom of the social ladder, to a wealthy successful, corrupt man with a high social status.
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