Book Review - The White Tiger
“In any jungle what is the rarest of animals-the creature that comes along only once in a generation?
The White Tiger”
This riveting novel got Aravind Adiga the Man Booker Prize award for 2008. The White Tiger, an epistolary novel published by HarperCollins Publishers is an aggressive portrayal of the reality of India through the eyes of an illiterate rural.
The novel contains a letter, written over a span of seven nights by Balram Halwai alias Munna. Balram intends to reveal the secrets of the birth and survival of a successful entrepreneur in India to the Premier of China, Mr. Jiabao. Through the letter, he weaves a powerful story about his rise from the darkness of penury to the light of wealth.
Balram builds his narration around a final act of abandonment and brutality that leads to his life in the light. He starts by giving a vivid picture of the darkness that he was born into and his hatred for it. The novel follows his removal from school and employment as a coal breaker so that the family can pay the landlords. His education about the Dark and Light India starts here. Later on he becomes a driver to a landlord’s family. From this point, we get a glimpse of the dormant antagonism that Balram harbors towards the rich. Here he understands the political system that thrives on the extortion of the rich and the deception of the poor. Once he moves to Delhi with Mr Ashok, the landlord’s son, Balram gradually withdraws himself from his familial responsibilities. He experiences a persistent yearning to be part of the light. Balram laments the resistance that the subjugated poor experiences when given an opportunity to break free from the shackles of servitude to the rich. He is gradually corrupted by his desires until the line that separates right from wrong fades. Balram takes control and after a series of events becomes an entrepreneur. A White Tiger in the Jungle of India!
In the course of narrating Munna’s story, Aravind Adiga depicts the power of wealth, the repressed psyche of the lower class and the inevitable corruption of innocence that accompanies the evolution from darkness to light. Adiga denudes India of the glory surrounding the victory cry “India Rising” and reveals the political, social and moral decay that has affected the country. Though there is not a single ray of hope, the story is laced with dry wit and irony that often catches us by surprise. But at times Munna fails to connect with the Premier and often simply uses the letters as a cathartic medium. The actual rise of Munna to an entrepreneur is only covered on the seventh day and contributes to just one tenth of the story. On the way the momentum of the events that lead to Balram’s transition to the White Tiger is lost. As a result, the reader feels slightly let down by the author and so would Mr Jiabao.
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