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The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

A Gripping Tale of Power and Ambition

Book Review - The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Title: The White Tiger

Author: Aravind Adiga

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Crime Thriller

First Publication: 2008

Language: English

Major Characters: Balram Halwai, Mr. Ashok, Kusum, Pinky Madam, Wen Jiabao

Setting Place: India

Narration: First-person narrative of Balram Halwai

Theme: Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption


Book Summary: The White Tiger

The White Tiger is the story of Balram Halwai’s life as a self-declared “self-made entrepreneur”: a rickshaw driver’s son who skillfully climbs India’s social ladder to become a chauffer and later a successful businessman. Balram recounts his life story in a letter to visiting Chinese official Premier Wen Jiabao, with the goal of educating the premier about entrepreneurship in India.

Balram writes from his luxurious office in the city of Bangalore, but the story begins in his rural ancestral village of Laxmangahr. Throughout his childhood, Balram’s destitute family lives at the mercy of four cruel, exploitative landlords, referred to as “The Animals”: The Raven, The Stork, The Buffalo, and The Wild Boar. Despite the difficult life he is born into, Balram excels in school. His academic potential and personal integrity distinguish him from his classmates, bringing him to the attention of a visiting school inspector who nicknames him “the White Tiger,” after the most rare and intelligent creature in the jungle.


Book Review: The White Tiger

The White Tiger is the splendid debut and the Booker Prize winning novel by Aravind Adiga which gives the world a glimpse of the life of a servant in modern day India trying to escape the darkness and become free. The book covers the harsh truths of a modern global economy and its crushing effects on the working class. With themes ranging from poverty, religious tensions, families all the way to political and police corruption in this booming country.

The protagonist, Balram Halwai is a thinking man, an Entrepreneur, telling his story of escaping the darkness and coming to the light. I really love the analogy of been in the darkness (referring to being a part of the working class and living in the slums) and seeking the light (rich and well off). Balram become a driver for a wealthy business man in the coal industry where he learns about the ways of the world and the classes. Balram tries to be a good Indian, looking after his family, been a good servant, not drinking, praying to his gods. But slowly corruption seeps in and you can see Balram been effected by this new world around him as he slowly sinks into this world; while trying to escape pressures of been a servant.

This book is somewhat a blend of mystery, psychological thriller and dark humor. It was indeed a fresh experience for me after a long duration of dormancy from the world of books.

There’s a concept called “The Rooster Coop” which the writer very efficiently details out in his usual, demented manner, but the horror of it is felt when you, deep down, side with his theory in its abstract form. It talks about how the oppressed have been so groomed and brought up beneath the sky of oppression that their minds have been robbed of rebellious thoughts; their existence bound to a fate which they can’t fathom an alternative to. So they don’t draw up a plan to flee, even if presented with the chance. Like roosters, in a coop.

“Do we loathe our masters behind a facade of love- or do we love them behind a facade of loathing? We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.”

The power of The White Tiger lies in its authentic and persuasive voice and the complex relationships the protagonist and those that surround him. There’s resentment and respect, desperation and pity, in the relationships between Balram and his family, between Balram and the other servants, and most ambivalent of all, between Balram and his master. Adiga exposes social and economic injustices with humour and a brisk pace and only falters in the last step because of too much left to say with words that seem stripped of their confidence after the emotional climax. Still, the journey of The White Tiger is one worth experiencing.

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