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Archive > February 2009 Book: The White Tiger A Novel by Aravind Adiga

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Our book this month is The White Tiger. Here are some discussion questions:

1. The author chose to tell the story from the provocative point of view of an exceedingly charming, egotistical admitted murderer. Do Balram's ambition and charisma make his vision clearer? More vivid? Did he win you over?

2. Why does Balram choose to address the Premier? What motivates him to tell his story? What similarities does he see between himself and the Premier?

3. Because of his lack of education, Ashok calls Balram "half-baked." What does he mean by this? How does Balram go about educating himself? What does he learn?

4. Balram variously describes himself as "a man of action and change," "a thinking man," "an entrepreneur," "a man who sees tomorrow," and a "murderer." Is any one of these labels the most fitting, or is he too complex for only one? How would you describe him?

5. Balram blames the culture of servitude in India for the stark contrasts between the Light and the Darkness and the antiquated mind set that slows change. Discuss his rooster coop analogy and the role of religion, the political system, and family life in perpetuating this culture. What do you make of the couplet Balram repeats to himself: "I was looking for the key for years / but the door was always open"?

6. Discuss Balram's opinion of his master and how it and their relationship evolve. Balram says "where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell" (160). Where do you think his self-interest begins?

7. Compare Ashok and his family's actions after Pinky Madam hits a child to Balram's response when his driver does. Were you surprised at the actions of either? How does Ashok and his family's morality compare to Balram's in respect to the accidents, and to other circumstances?

8. Discuss Balram's reasons for the murder: fulfilling his father's wish that his son "live like a man," taking back what Ashok had stolen from him, and breaking out of the rooster coop, among them. Which ring true to you and which do not? Did you feel Balram was justified in killing Ashok? Discuss the paradox inherent in the fact that in order to live fully as a man, Balram took a man's life.

9. Balram's thoughts of his family initially hold him back from killing Ashok. What changes his mind? Why do you think he goes back to retrieve Dharam at the end of the novel? Does his decision absolve him in any way?

10. The novel offers a window into the rapidly changing economic situation in India. What do we learn about entrepreneurship and Balram's definition of it?

11. The novel reveals an India that is as unforgiving as it is promising. Do you think of the novel, ultimately, as a cautionary tale or a hopeful one?

Enjoy the book this month everyone!


message 2: by Donna (new)

Donna (dfiggz) I just ordered it from Borders Here is my TBR for FEB.
The Lost Boy by Dave Pelzer
Lullaby
White Tiger
Bridge of Sighs


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I need to order it too. Donna Lost Boy is really good!


message 4: by Kristie (new)

Kristie (spedkristie) I'm audioing this book and I am having a very difficult time with it~


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

It's that hard Krisite Faye? I still need to go get it.


message 6: by KrisT (new)

KrisT Is anyone into this one. I ordered it for audio and should have it in a day or two but if no one is into it I might skip and go to next months maybe.
??


message 7: by Beth (new)

Beth Knight (zazaknittycat) I'm reading it right now and I like it.


message 8: by KrisT (new)

KrisT May be spoilers.....

I started the audio on this this morning. It is hard in a way to listen because of his Indian accent. That would be okay but the story is very....sarcastic I think and it makes it hard to catch what is being said.
I like how the main character said the 21st century is for the brown and the yellow people since the white people have ruined themselves with buggery and cell phone usage!! Hmmmm?
So far too much sarcasm and political banter for me. I will keep going.


message 9: by KrisT (new)

KrisT I am about half way but might not get back to listening to it for a few days. I think according to your question #1 Baldram might be winning me over but it remains to be seen. Ha!


message 10: by KrisT (new)

KrisT I finished. Anyone else?


message 11: by Nicole (new)

Nicole | 2 comments I'm getting there. Just passed the half way point last night and so far so good. I'm enjoying it but not as much as I thought I would. Maybe I'll have changed my mind when I'm done.


message 12: by KrisT (new)

KrisT 1. The author chose to tell the story from the provocative point of view of an exceedingly charming, egotistical admitted murderer. Do Balram's ambition and charisma make his vision clearer? More vivid? Did he win you over?

I don't want to forget and I am already into several other books so I thought i would make some comments. I do think Balram is charming, egotistical and we know he is a murderer. Can someone be charming if you know that about them? I mean of course they can appear charming but do you have to believe them, the charm is obviously part of who he is. I was easing up on him until I see how he turned out. Once you know the truth of him I was really sickened by his ambition. I felt desolate and disappointed in him and society. Like their whole existence is a sham. Anyone else feel that way?


message 13: by Nicole (new)

Nicole | 2 comments I had really high expectations for this book. I liked it more towards this end, but I'm really surprised with how it's been lingering in my thoughts after having finished it a week ago. Balram is certainly not a likeable character. But he was written as a product of his society and our Western influences on Indian traditions...albeit, a darker, self-interested product of the two influences.


message 14: by KrisT (new)

KrisT I agree Nicole but though he was written as a product of his society ...did he HAVE to make the choices he did???
I just finished reading Q and A (Slumdog Millionare) and really much of the story is the same thing. He is a product of his society and though was faced with many horrible things he comes out the better for it.
In The White Tiger I don't think that Balram comes out the better nor do I think what he was doing to his (was that his little cousin) any different based on what he learned about work life. I see no effort to improve himself or society but only to get material gains. IN so many ways Balram disgusted me with his choices.


message 15: by KrisT (new)

KrisT 4. Balram variously describes himself as "a man of action and change," "a thinking man," "an entrepreneur," "a man who sees tomorrow," and a "murderer." Is any one of these labels the most fitting, or is he too complex for only one? How would you describe him?

This is a hard question because he IS all of them and he is less of some more of others.
- a man of action and change = but to what end, what gain to him is the most I can see. He did not respect his family, his culture, he refuses marriage on their terms and that is the only thing that I saw him take a stand on and change.
- a thinking man = he is that to again, his own gain. Could he not do something good with the brain he was given?
- an entrepreneur = yes he did become this but only through ill gotten gains. He could have used his brain to better his people, his family, his culture but no he was really only out for himself.
- a man who sees tomorrow = only in the light of himself.
- a murderer = no doubt and he has no remorse or guilt. He is a murderer in more ways than one.
He is despicable.



message 16: by KrisT (new)

KrisT Anyone else read this? I know I wanted to discuss but it is getting buried in my brain under so many other books that I have read recently I am going to forget about it. sigh.... :)


message 17: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 5 comments I know Balram was self centered but so was his family. They too only thought about themselves. They wanted to use him for the wages that he made. His family thought so little of him he wasn't even given a name. I think that Balram was tired of being a slave to the rich and to his family. No one treated him like a "man". His fustrations overwhelmed him and that is why he killed.


message 18: by KrisT (new)

KrisT So does that mean no one else in the world today has these same issues with family and working for bosses who care nothing about our needs? Killing is acceptable behavior today?


message 19: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 5 comments I didn't say that it was acceptable but people kill for different reasons. I wasn't judging his behavior just trying to understand it.


message 20: by KrisT (new)

KrisT Yeah me too and I just can't understand why he picked that way to get ahead. I mean we know he was enterprising and he was going to come up with something to make a living at but did he pick murder because that is what he saw the wealthy do to get ahead?


message 21: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 5 comments I think that his society was much more primeval and basic than we can comprehend. I don't think I could truly imagine myself in a situation like that. We are not competing for basics like food and shelter every day. It seems like a large part of the population in India are in bacic survival mode. I would think that a life like that could push you into doing things you might not do under different circumstances.
And I think that you are right when you say that he saw the rich murdering to get ahead and to maintain what they already had. That would certainly alter your perspective on life.


message 22: by KrisT (new)

KrisT I know that the living is not good. I keep thinking of when he took his boss's son to his hometown and they ate all that good food. I think he made choices to get ahead easily and not have to do what his parents did. Part of that is clear when he refuses to marry and perpetuate this type of living. But he is set on being an entrepreneur and he is going to make it happen no matter what or how many people are killed. I can't remember how many in the village ended up dying because of him?? he has no remorse he just goes about his way and takes his one little cousin along with him to perpetuate this type of life. It is a no win situation that I just don't or can't comprehend.
I read Q and A right after this one and it had such similar situations but the main character made better choices.
I think it comes down to free will and choices we make or the path we choose. If you never want to make anything better than you are part of the problem. I don't know...I am just rambling.


message 23: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I just finished this book, hope you don't mind me bringing this thread back for a minute.

****SPOILERS****







The one thing that stuck in my head was he said he only killed once - well I'm sorry but if what's written is to be believed he is responsible for his family's deaths as well - did he conveniently forget this or justify it?

The more I read of this book the more I disliked Balram. When starting out I thought he's going to change for the better, make a difference. I was saddened to find out I was wrong. In the end he became exactly what he despised.


message 24: by KrisT (new)

KrisT Mandy,I agree! That is what was disappointing to me too. I wanted Balram to learn something by his actions and the actions of his employers son. I wanted him to see it as wrong and make a change and do something to help his family and his people, culture or himself that could be honest and good. Nope he chose to cop out if you ask me. And yes he was responsible for the deaths of all his relatives there in that village. It really didn't bother him a bit did it? ugh


Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun (petra-x) I really liked the book. I don't see why a book has to have a moral lesson. A novel, is primarily to entertain not to instruct.

It isn't true in real life that criminals don't prosper and that the good win out in the end, why should it be in books?




message 26: by KrisT (new)

KrisT I don't think all books have to have a good guy or have a moral lesson. But to me this man made his bed and life lessons tell us that you must then lie in it. Somehow he was able to prosper and being human sort of dictates that as a human this mans behavior is wrong. That is why it ends up being a moral story too.

As far as likable villains go Balram is a pretty good one if you like that kind of thing. :)


message 27: by Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun (last edited Apr 23, 2009 06:19PM) (new)

Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun (petra-x) I know quite a lot of con-men personally (don't ask!), lawyers turned pirates, top government officials taking huge backhanders, drug dealers who now own top-rated employment agencies. Some of them are likeable and some of them are not,but all of them got away with their crimes and lie in soft beds with Egyptian cotton sheets and not in bunks with rough grey blankets as they definitely deserve.

Life lesson no. 1, the first one we learn, life is not fair.


message 28: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Indeed life is not fair and it is not easy.

I'm not too fussed about moral lessons, good guys, bad guys - all's I know is to start with I had one idea about him and then the more I kept reading that idea faded into the distance and was replaced with a feeling of disgust.


message 29: by KrisT (new)

KrisT We all know that what Balram has done is not new or original. But what we do know as humans is that what he has done is wrong.
The people you know may or may not succeed in this world with the way they choose to live and work but I think somehow
Lesson: what goes around comes around (whether on this earth or later if you believe in that sort of thing)

Because we all know life is not fair, do we steel from others to make ourselves better, do we murder others to get ahead do we cheat lie and kill just to make a buck? Yes, some do and don't. Do some feel good about what they have done and relish in their escape and current success...sure. Is it right?? that is the question?




Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun (petra-x) Mandy wrote: "...ll's I know is to start with I had one idea about him and then the more I kept reading that idea faded into the distance and was replaced with a feeling of disgust..."

Balram wasn't a typical anti-hero; the man you could side with despite his wickedness. It was a mark, I think, of the great writing of this book, that he wasn't a good man but he wasn't celebrated for his sins either, that he remained true to his opportunistic self and we neither sympathised with him nor reviled him, but read and enjoyed the book for what it was.

Right and wrong are frame-of-reference issues. Most of us here share a very similar frame of reference so we can agree on what is right or wrong. But Balram came from a society so poor and beaten-down with a built-in fate-limited set of opportunities, to him, getting ahead, getting out of the darkness, getting his future family (if he should have them) out of that darkness for ever, was such a great 'right' that no matter what 'wrongs' were committed to fulfil that ambition, they could be excused and would be by future generations.





message 31: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Mm, interesting. I guess some people may excuse things other wouldn't even dream of excusing. In the end it's only themselves they have to answer to when the thoughts run through their minds, if they can live with it then good for them, some can't and their world would be turned upside down living with guilt and disgust. Each to his own.


Petra on hiatus in hospital & not the beach,Cancun (petra-x) Mandy wrote: "In the end it's only themselves they have to answer to when the thoughts run through their minds, if they can live with it then good for them, some can't and their world would be turned upside down living with guilt and disgust. Each to his own..."

Its only a book. Who knows how a real-life Balram would react?




message 33: by KrisT (last edited Apr 27, 2009 08:48AM) (new)

KrisT I think there are two issues here. I think one issue is the writing of the story. I think the author did a great job of creating this character and the story of him. I think anyone would agree there is something that drew us into the story and kept us going along till completion. No faulting the author there.
The second is what the author is saying to us about the character or society or life. There we each can take away what we want and that becomes more personal. I feel for me that if the author is representing the modern day people and culture this way, whether it be true to life or not, I choose to not accept this as the way it had to be for the character he developed. I also choose to think of this in moral terms but not everyone has to or does.
That is what makes reading books together so fun and I love the diverseness of the conversations. For me it is too hard to escape the moral conundrum of what the author is trying to say...but like I said, that is just me. :)


message 34: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Petra X wrote: Its only a book ...."

Absolutely, we don't know so we get to imagine in our own minds.


message 35: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I'm with you, KrisT. Also we have to remember the author wrote this book with satire thrown in, so who knows, the moral could also be satirical - the author may be feeling exactly like we do but has chosen to end the story as he has to demonstrate his point.


message 36: by Rose (new)

Rose (roseo) Petra X wrote: "I really liked the book. I don't see why a book has to have a moral lesson. A novel, is primarily to entertain not to instruct.

It isn't true in real life that criminals don't prosper and that..."


I absolutely agree Petra X!!!!

EXTREME POVERTY is the main character in my mind. The story revolves around the struggle with it and the survival instincts of it's characters.

Exreme poverty breeds corruption and greed in many countries. I cannot bring myself to judge Balram.

This was a brilliant book written with wit and sarcasm to offset the sad fate of men.





message 37: by Joy (new)

Joy We also have to remember that the victim was hardy that- he himself was wealthy through corrupt means. I think the novel works on many levels: it's a satire of capitalism and "progress", a problematic narrative that both intrigues and repulses the reader, a unflinching look at the trappings of family and poverty. In the end, if you can understand the main character and appreciate his struggle to the top, you can see why violence and ugly competition must go hand in hand with a society so polarized in its riches. Though set in India, I think story fits everywhere, esp in America.


message 38: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 5 comments Nice response Joy.


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