The Duality of the Indian Culture in The White Tiger

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Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (2008) was the Man-Booker Prize-winning first novel. It is written in an epistolary style. The style of the story is in first-person narrative style. The contemporary Indian English literature captures the threat of violence. The narrator discloses his personal history in a uniquely intimate, witty and lively voice. The White Tiger delivers an invincible central character and India bristling with economic possibility, competing loyalties and class struggle.

Adiga’s first novel The White Tiger delivers an indomitable central character and an India bristling with economic possibility, competing loyalties and class struggle. The novel is centred on Balram Halwai, a son of a rickshaw puller, destined to make sweets becomes Ashok Sharma. His transformation from Munna— Balram Halwai—White Tiger—Ashok Sharma is the blueprint for the rise of underclass. Balram is the strong voice of underclass in which marginal farmers, landless labourers, jobless youths, poor, auto and taxi drivers, servants, prostitutes, beggars and unprivileged figure.

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It is the story of a rickshawallah’s move from the ‘darkness’ of rural India to the ‘light’ of urban Gurgaon. It reminds us of the harsh facts behind the fiction. It also considers the relationship between inequality and violent crime. The White Tiger sets in rural Bihar, New Delhi and its suburban city Gurgoan. The novel is a sound depiction of post-modern ambiguities. It is a frantic desire for an enhanced social status in a society where one man’s wealth is another’s poverty. Adiga with a tinge of black comedy deprecates greed and corruption, rampant in the Indian society.

The White Tiger reveals the binary nature of Indian culture; the Light and the Darkness and how the caste system has been reduced to “Men with Big Bellies and Men with Small Bellies.”The novel showcases two extreme dimensions of modern India, on one side is the changing face of high-tech and rich India, particularly in the emergence of Bangalore as the IT city and outsourcing capital of the world and on the other side is the darker side of India, revealing the culture of caste and the snare of corruption. It is a story of poor village boy named Balram who becomes an entrepreneur in Bangalore after killing his rich master. The narrator protagonist Balram exposes the injustice that pervades Indian society and foot-licking approach that seems necessary to succeed in the culture.

The ‘White Tiger’ motif is used to describe the narrator’s rise from the servant status, the emancipation from his caste and his rise to the position of his master. The novel cautions that in our journey of making Indian an economic super power in 21st century we should not forget the needs of the thousands of the poor Indians who live in miserable conditions and are denied decent health care, education, or employment. The novel draws our attention to the fact that the poor people, like Balram, too have some aspirations- to make it in life, to become rich and to lead a comfortable life. They need to be given their legitimate needs to achieve these dreams otherwise they will resort to criminal acts, as Balram does in the novel.

This novel is the narration of a journey of protagonist Balram from rags to riches amid brutal classism, exploitation, amorality, and globalisation. Balram is compressed in a cruelly stratified society as a resident from dark India. This novel launches a sarcastic attack on the socio economic, political and moral codes. These codes form the core of human existence. The White Tiger is an exceptional fictionalized study in human inequality. In the novel, the novelist employs a narrative which is episodic in the first half of the novel.

Through flashbacks, the readers are introduced to the nameless and meaningless existence of the protagonist. Referring to his name, ‘BalramHalwai’ alias Munna, the narrator takes the readers back to his first day at school. He narrates the incident when the teacher named him ‘Balram’ for ‘Munna’ just means a ‘boy’. According to the author, Balram’s narration has been created to represent “a kind of continuous murmur or growl beneath middle-class India” which “never gets recorded”. Adiga says that his novel challenges a lot of comfortable assumptions about Indian democracy and economies. He wants to challenge the idea that India is the world’s greatest democracy.
The Novel The White Tiger brings out the major themes and major issues. AravindAdiga not only brings out the hideous facets of class division, corruption and inequality, but the consequences to which all these issues can lead an individual and a nation. The novel explores its protagonist’s journey from an “India of darkness” to an “India of light”. In the novel, the threat of violence emerges from the similar cause being pushed backwards and denial of basic rights. The novel describes the violent crime committed by a person for his private aspiration. The White Tiger discusses the various evil systems like riots in election, corruption, poverty, unemployment, educational system and misuse of welfare schemes. A major focus is on India of Light with access to education, health care, transportation facilities, roads, hospitality, electricity, rapid growth of technology, running water, hope, justice, emerging entrepreneurial power in the world surpassing China. The White Tiger concentrates much on India’s rise as a modern global economy. Other themes are corruption in the society and politics, religious tension between Hindus and Muslims, the experience of returning to India after living in America, and the tensions between India and China as Asian superpowers.

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