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The White Tiger

4 Ratings: 3.8
A novel by Aravind Adiga
1 review about The White Tiger

A scathing, yet passionate look at the darker side of Indian life.

  • May 24, 2010
I was recommended this book, simply because I had to have something different to read from the usual type of book that I'll usually be buried in. I'm glad I read this as from start to finish I couldn't put it down. I was gripped from the first paragraph to the last, and found it to be both a haunting, yet beautiful tale of one man's passion to break free from the shackles of servitude, but is driven by this passion to darker things.

Aravind Adiga manages to portray the darker, grimier and more sinister side of Indian life that those in the west never usually hear about. The main character is one that you come to have real feelings for; you want him to succeed, even though you become aware from the beginning of his horrible crime. The story is told in the form of a letter written to the Premier of China by Balram Halwai, nicknamed the White Tiger. Balram tells the Premier of China his life story and tells of the events that lead Balram to become a successful entrepeneur, and along the way reveals the darker sides of Indian culture, politics and society as a whole.

Born into a servant caste, Balram's future was always set as him being a servant to the rich, but in school he was instantly recognised as a clever boy and given the nickname White Tiger by a school inspector, which means that Balram is a child that comes across only once in a generation and he should be recognised as such. 

Coming under the servitude of a Mr. Ashok, you are given the sense that there is more to the relationship between the two than just Master and Servant. Ashok shows more compassionate behaviour towards Balram than his other rich friends, and it almost comes across as a father and son relationship. The story retains, for the first half, a positive tone as Balram describes his relationship with and his affection towards his master; but takes a more sinister turn halfway through as he begins to describe the downfall of his master and the inevitable conclusion.

The real beauty of this story is not the plot itself, but more the build up to the conclusion and the descriptions of Indian culture and society throughout. It is revealing and cutting of the political and police system of the nation and portrays it as an entirely corrupt and divided nation through the description of the poor remaining in their place through the use of the metaphor of the poor being chickens in a coop. Even if they were given the opportunity, they wouldn't leave the coop. The dedication that a servant has to their master is a troubling one to ponder in the real world, but I find it fairly haunting that, even in this modern age, this type of class divide and almost legalised slavery still exists.

I loved this book. Adiga has a real talent for portraying the raw and disgusting image of the Indian lower classes and portrays the hopelessness of their lives in a truly haunting way. You are easily placed in the same situation as Balram and understand his cause to the point where you are almost justifying his crime. You know you shouldn't be able to relate to a character that has committed such a heinous act, but when you come to know this characters life story and when you become aware of the suffering he has been put through as a servant you find yourself agreeing with his actions and ask "why didn't he do it sooner?"

A stunning read and one I would highly recommend.

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