Sunday, November 4, 2012

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

In Aravind Adigas' novel The White Tiger, Balram Halwai considers his criminal behavior as an “act of entrepreneurship” because he commits these acts in order to get ahead in his life. Balram wants a better life for himself so he becomes determined to change his life one step at a time. Born into a caste of sweet makers, Balram shows the readers that caste is becoming less and less important in developing India. What is important, we find out, is the desire to rise above these castes to the top of the social and economic ladder. Adiga uses the language and conceptual framework of global capitalism to establish and frame the world in which Balram pursues his entrepreneurial goals.
As India develops, the struggle for power is evident. The people are forced to live in an undesirable environment where it is SAID they have the right to choose or vote but in reality they do not. Instead their hands are forced into what they do and who they vote for which ultimately affects their futures. However, as India continues to grow and become a leading nation in the larger scale of things; the people who live there are eager to do the same. Balram is one of those characters. Balram has a different way of going about things however, and chooses to blend into the changing society for a while until he can find a means of escape into wealth and power. “But isn’t it likely that everyone who counts in the world, including out prime minister (including you, Mr. Jiabao), has killed someone or other on their way to the top ? Kill enough people and they will put up bronze statues to you near Parliament House in Delhi- but that is glory, and not what I am after. All I wanted was the chance to be a man- and for that, one murder was enough (Adiga 247).” Here, Balram asserts that he didn’t kill just to kill, but because he had to in order to be considered a man in the eyes of a developing India where how much money you had was the most important qualification. Adiga also demonstrates to the reader that just because it is said that you have a certain freedom, doesn’t mean you really do. There are corrupt powers in every society and Adiga uses the economic and social development of India to put us right into the heat of the action.

It is Balram who describes his killing of his boss as an “act of entrepreneurship” because in Balrams eyes, this was necessary in order for him to propel himself into a better life and higher social standing. Through the writing of letters to the Chinese president, Balram justifies his actions in the eyes of society because he explains that he had to do it, and Adiga uses language and ideas that make the reader believe this act was justifiable. Many people in the world will do whatever is necessary in order to get ahead in life. If the desire and will are strong enough, it can happen. In the end, Adiga successfully portrays a growing society and demonstrates what it means to be a citizen in a world such as Balrams’.

The New York Times did a book review on the novel that seems to disagree with my opinion that the novel effectively portrays a growing society both socially and economically. The review states that the novel is simplistic and has an "absence of complexity." I disagree. I feel that aside from the landlords, the characters are actually very psychologically complex Balram derives a whole plan that will take a long time to complete, and it takes a great mind to get away with such a crime. However, not only are the characters complex, India itself is complex and its inner workings are demonstrated beautifully. Check out the link to The New York Times article to decide for yourself.

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