Is Adiga's hero really a white tiger or just another murderer?
I've started another class - this time in Literature for ESL and I've got six students! Isn't that great? I've got an American boy (wonder what he's doing studying in Malaysia), a Chinese from Beijing, another from Brunei, one from Uzbekistan and two from Turkey. Right now we're doing Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger. I can hardly get two words from the Beijing girl and sometimes it seems that the discussion is between Tim (the American) and me.
But re reading The White Tiger has been fun nevertheless. The first time I read it I found I didn't like the protagonist Balram so much so that I merely skimmed the rest of the text. I find Balram obnoxious and crude with his talk of "dipping his beak" and scratching his groins. The language is neither scintillating nor brilliant and the story of a boy from a poverty stricken village becoming rich is common enough. What is uncommon though is the way he rode to power - by murdering his kind but weak boss. If he is not a psychopath what is he? There are glimpses of light though - the beautiful imagery of Darkness and Light ( the vast majority of rural India is described by Balram as the Dark whilst the illuminating lights of the city is the Light. The rich live in a protected coccoon of an egg - and most of them do not even realise how the other half lives. Balram longs to be part of the Light and to gain his ambition and escape from what he calls his 'chicken coop', has to do something drastic. Portrayed through the jaundiced eyes of Balram, India seems a harsh land where the poor will always remain poor, the government officials are corrupt and the law only helps those who can grease its palms. But the irony is that Balram ended up just like them - as he himself said - his belly was getting bigger (meaning he is getting to be rich and fat, just like the people he used to serve.)
Is there a moral to this story? Is it that one must do whatever one can to get to the top - even if it means getting all your relatives killed (as Balram said his would probably be after his boss's family found out that he had killed Ashok.)