The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga: Themes, Ideas, Symbols
What is your inner animal?
In Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger, there are many different themes and central ideas. These themes include: corruption, religion, the light, and the darkness. With these themes come symbols that further examine and support them. In the White Tiger animals serve as a symbol in the life of Balram, as well as the life of the citizens of India. These symbols, animals, demonstrate corruption with status and the importance of a given role in the society of India. The animals that are used for symbols are: the buffalo, the stork, the wild boar, and the raven; the key factor that connects these animals is that they all represent a master or landlord. The names of these landlords aren’t even known because they are referred to as these animals so much. They all lived in mansions on the rich and pretty side of Laxmangarh, in the landlord’s quarters.
The Buffalo represents a landlord in Laxmangarh. Per Balram’s description he is “a stout [man] with a bald, brown, dimpled head, a serene expression on his face, and a shotgun on his lap (Adiga 22).” The Buffalo owned all the rickshaws and roads in Laxmangarh. So, if you wanted to use the road or a rickshaw in any manner you must pay him. He acquired this name from what part of Laxmangarh he claimed for business and from his resemblance to an actual buffalo. Much like the actual buffaloes of Laxmangarh this landlord is the greediest landlord of them all. The buffalos in Laxmangarh get fed the most and taken care of first because they are the prize possessions of each individual family. As the reader, can imagine the Buffalo gets paid first and he takes what he wants from the less fortunate people and servants. The people of Laxmangarh accept that the Buffalo is going to take what he wants because he has a high status in society.
Another landlord is the Wild Boar, he owned all the good agricultural land around Laxmangarh. He is depicted as having “two of his teeth, on either side of his nose, [which were] long and curved, like little tusks (Adiga 21).” As the reader, can now see the Wild Boar physically mirrors the attributes of an actual wild boar. He has the rights to the land that wild boars typically roam around for food in. Per Balram, on page 21, “if you wanted to work on [the agricultural land], you had to bow down to his feet, and touch the dust under his slippers, and agree to swallow his day wages.” This opens the reader’s eyes how corrupt the community is. The workers are treated so poorly, especially given that the workers are doing jobs the Wild Boar needs to get done. The landlords can treat the workers however they want simply because they are a part of the higher class and no one challenges this. The Wild Boar is even allowed to “howl” at females walking along the road from his car and nothing is wrong with this (Adiga 21). And if people have a problem with the actions of the landlord no one is brave enough to speak on it. The Raven is also a landlord in Laxmangarh. The Raven owned the dry, rocky hillside around the Black fort, he got his name from the way he punishes those who do not pay him his money. In the eloquent words of Balram, the Raven “[would] dip his beak into their backsides,” when he was not paid his money. The people who typically used the land where goat herders who led their goats there to graze. It is easy for any reader to see the corruption with this. How is it fair for anyone to charge others for land that is practically left to the public?
The last and final landlord is the Stork. The Stork claimed the river that flowed outside the village and he is a “fat man with a fat mustache, thick and curved and pointed at the tips (Adiga 20).” The Stork charged for fish that were caught by fishermen, as well as boatman who crossed the river. The Stork was an especially corrupt landlord because he also runs an illegal mining business. He continues to run this business by paying of the Great Socialist so that he will not get caught. Along the corruption of the Stork comes his two sons: The Mongoose and the Sheep, A.K.A Mr. Ashok. His two sons are corrupt as well. The Mongoose is just like his dad; he is not afraid to do whatever it takes to keep the family business going and he also treats his servants poorly. However, the Sheep is different, he is corrupt but he also sees the error in it. He does not want to proceed with bribing the politicians, he also sees the issue between how the servants lives and how the masters live. Although it is great that Ashok does see the corruption he does nothing to help change things, he simply continues to act the way society has learned to accept.
The major connection that these landlords must Balram is not only that they opened his eyes to the corruption of India, but they have also showed him how to be a good boss or master. When Balram gets his White Tiger driver service he says “I don’t treat them like servants – I don’t slap, or bully, or mock anyone. I don’t insult any of them by calling them my “family”, either. They’re my employees, I’m their boss, that’s all (Adiga 259).” Balram could see the corruption between those who have a higher status in India and make a change. While he still does partially partake in the corruption for example, how he still pays of the police (Adiga 265) he still at least tries to help by not taking a complete part in the corruption. Balram became the White Tiger, he became the only master that was different, he became the master that stood out from all the others. Just like the animals that represent the other landlords the White Tiger represents him and it shows his status in society.
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