Book title: The White Tiger
Book Author: Aravind Adiga
Publication Date: April 22, 2008
The White Tiger is the debut novel of Indian writer Aravind Adiga. It won him the Man Booker prize in 2008. The novel is written as a series of letters to the Chinese premier from the main character of the story, Balram Halwai. Balram’s story is set in modern India, amid the backdrop of globalization, and tells of his climb out of poverty to become a successful entrepreneur.
The contrast between the new India, a global economic power, and the life of rural poverty which is reality for the majority of Indians, is a major theme in this book. The book successfully portrays the India of reality and as such encompasses such themes as religious tension, familial loyalty and the difficult of returning to India after living abroad.
The story is of a climb out of poverty but it is no conventional rags-to-riches story. This is not the success story for which Balram will be invited to lecture on how he found his way out of poverty. Balram is not the hero who took only the good out of rural poverty and came out shining. He is witty and endearing but ultimately ruthless and willing to use any method to find financial independence.
Balram describes the poor in India as roosters in a cage. The roosters know that they will soon be killed but do not rebel. They make no attempt to escape. To him the poor in India are like the roosters, they have no fight left in them and they accept their fate. Balram decides that he will escape the cage renouncing established morals and values along the way.
The narrator finds himself out of rural India, when luck and his ability to take chances land him a chauffeur job in New Delhi. He works for the New York educated son of a landlord from his old village. This son at first seems to be the only character who cares about Balram but the progression of the story shows that he is just simpler weaker than the rest of his family.
Adiga’s plot may be slightly predictable and the final act which set Balram up to become a successful entrepreneur is one the reader may see coming. But it doesn’t really matter because this is one of the books where the setting and style overpowers the plot. There’s such a draw with the sarcastic and witty style of the narrator that the book is difficult to put down.
Arvind Adiga has managed to write a novel that is extremely funny but apparently without trying to be. Comparisons have been made to Richard Wright’s Native Son, another novel about living in poverty, and those comparisons have been made because they are true. While the two novels are nothing alike in writing style, they evoke a sense of familiarity between them. And when a novel can be continuously compared to a classic such as Native Son, there can be no higher praise.