The White Tiger and Its Critics: A Survey of Recent Responses
Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is a representation of the India that is not often displayed among the media. It is an India that, in its core, incorporates all aspects of political, social and economic injustice. Balram Halwai, the protagonist, lives in a world of two extremities: the downtrodden poor and the conniving rich. The somewhat obscure portrayal of India raises questions among widely accredited critics on whether Adiga’s India is a true one or not. It is, however, quite likely that the ‘ugliness [of India] is exaggerated’ and not at all like the monstrosity in The White Tiger. Where several critics believed they ‘could not relate to the destitution’ demonstrated in the novel, many others held the idea that it brought the ‘true India’ to light.
The White Tiger’s convoluted take on an India lacking a decent political atmosphere has been condemned by various big names. The poor are so inanely poor that they are forced to work away their lives repaying their debts. Akash Kapur of the New York Times speaks of an absolute ‘absence of human complexity’ in the novel. The countless hours spent describing the depravity of the lower class in The White Tiger has reduced them to only ‘symbols’. Adiga has seemingly attempted to base the story entirely on the brutalities of the poor, however, forgetting that they are indeed humans with a very real kind of humanity. The novel is considered to have displayed a version of the ‘lives of poor rural Indians’ that is quite a ‘brutal distortion’. Adiga’s descriptions of Bihar are rather mocking and not at all like how the town is characteristically known as. He has turned the Bihar found in the novel into a ‘cheap caricature’ of the original. It is not a necessity to ‘idealize poverty’ in order to find the humanity within individuals and this is an idea Adiga has a hard time resonating with.
In stark contrast, The Independent’s David Mattin appears to be quite oddly ‘seduced’ by the aura of the novel. He is acceptant of Adiga’s India and follows the novel word to word as should be expected for a writer at a liberal newspaper. The ‘dazzling narrative’ of this ‘emerging’ India comprises of an entirely desolate landscape of distrust and disgust. The poor have no opportunities handed to them and the only way for them to make it out in the world is by crossing the line of good and evil. Upon having crossed the only boundary separating them from acts of utter horror, the downtrodden are no longer so and have instead found a life of privilege that is associated with an ultimate lack of morals. As Robins of The Telegraph states in his review, ‘advancement can be achieved only by patronage and corruption’. In a world like Balsam’s, one must break off all barriers and become removed from the orthodox morality in attempts to succeed.
Balram Halwai is a man of no regards and absolutely no morality. Adiga has, in his attempt to make the novel comical, forgotten to give Balram attributes that make him more than a ‘one-dimensional’ figure. Balram is reduced to his more alarming actions rather than becoming a man of depth. The novel seems to forgo the fact that the characters are meant to hold depth and complexity. Kapur explains how although Balram is quite the interesting fellow, ‘his credulousness and naiveté often ring false’. Balram’s apparent astonishment in response to the sight of English liquor and the insides of an air-conditioned mall does not exactly make much sense. The characters of the novel are so insanely eccentric that their actions often do not add up, instead making them appear to be shallow and superficial.
In The White Tiger, Adiga has built an India reasonably different to what is revealed in the media. His India is one of impoverishment and disparity among the classes. This India is one without the bourgeois society; it is one of ‘darkness’ and ‘light’. There is no way to truly confirm whether Adiga’s vision of India is true, unless one were to truly seek the answer out within the country itself. The novel’s dry wit diminishes the value of the characters and makes them out to be nothing short of symbols. The economic state of the country is one of immense corruption. The India Adiga reveals is one that leaves a mark on the reader. It is an India that is unforgettable.
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Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger is a representation of the India that is not often displayed among the media. It is an India that, in its core, incorporates all aspects […]