5inabus's Reviews > The White Tiger

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
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Feb 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: i-own-it, books-that-halt-time
Read in April, 2011

"I was searching for the key, but the door was open all along". This is the central premise of The White Tiger - or it is at least the resounding message I was left with upon completion. Although the statement is made with reference to the servant (or slave) holding the keys to his own emancipation without ever realizing it, I felt that the lesson could have much wider application in life generally. But I digress... The White Tiger is interesting, and I say that with the highest praise. I both loved and loathed the narrator, Balram Halwai, who was born into a life of servitude but broke free in an act of pre-determined murder. In this, we see that the moral highground is less of a supreme vantage point and more of a slippery transition on a precarious bridge from point A to point B. And I suspect this another truth with universal application.

The fact that I could never really pin-point exactly how I felt about Balram (I know other reviewers have been critical on this point) for me only made his character all the more real. What human being ever is exactly uniform in their beliefs and actions? Are we to really believe that heroes are completely without blemishes? Balram was telling an entirely one-sided story, without apology, and you could both understand his reasoning yet question his logic at the same time. I love it when a novel causes an internal conflict like this. And you can rest assured that the thinking starts from page one!

Beyond that, The White Tiger is just downright entertaining. It's not laugh out loud funny, but it'll definitely have you looking smug beside someone struggling through another dense chapter of, say, Sophie's Choice.
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Quotes 5inabus Liked

Aravind Adiga
“The story of a poor man's life is written on his body, in a sharp pen.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“I put my hand out and wiped the vomit from his lips, and cooed soothing words to him. It squeezed my heart to see him suffer like this - but where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell: no servant can ever tell what the motives of his heart are.
"Do we loathe our masters behind a facade of love - or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?
"We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Iqbal, that great poet, was so right. The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave. To hell with the Naxals and their guns shipped from China. If you taught every poor boy how to paint, that would be the end of the rich in India.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Me, and thousands of others in this country like me, are half-baked, because we were never allowed to complete our schooling. Open our skulls, look in with a penlight, and you'll find an odd museum of ideas: sentences of history or mathematics remembered from school textbooks (no boy remembers his schooling like the one who was taken out of school, let me assure you), sentences about politics read in a newspaper while waiting for someone to come to an office, triangles and pyramids seen on the torn pages of the old geometry textbooks which every tea shop in this country uses to wrap its snacks in, bits of All India Radio news bulletins, things that drop into your mind, like lizards from the ceiling, in the half hour before falling asleep--all these ideas, half formed and half digested and half correct, mix up with other half-cooked ideas in your head, and I guess these half-formed ideas bugger one another, and make more half-formed ideas, and this is what you act on and live with.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Go to Old Delhi,and look at the way they keep chickens there in the market. Hundred of pale hens and brightly colored roosters, stuffed tightly into wire-mesh cages. They see the organs of their brothers lying around them.They know they are next, yet they cannot rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with humans in this country.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“If only a man could spit his past out so easily.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Do we loathe our masters behind a facade of love - or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“I was looking for the key for years
But the door was always open”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“Never before in human history have so few owed so much to so many, Mr. Jiabao. A handful of men in this country have trained the remaining 99.9 percent—as strong, as talented, as inteligent in every way—to exist in perpetual servitude; a servitude so strong that you can put the key of his emancipation in a man's hands and he will throw it back at you with a curse.”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger

Aravind Adiga
“The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave”
Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger


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