21st Century Literature discussion

The White Tiger
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2012 Book Discussions > The White Tiger - First Night to Fourth Morning (October 2012)

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message 1: by Mikela (last edited Oct 01, 2012 08:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mikela Discussion of The White Tiger will be broken into approximately 1/3rd of the book.

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. Why do you think Balram chooses to address the Premier?

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
I was talking just the other day with a few people about establishing your world as a writer. And I love the way he's chosen to handle that. Nothing feels expository. It's all very personal.

(Yes, this completely skirts the question. I just don't have a good answer yet.)

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
Adiga's wikipedia page quotes him as saying, “ At a time when India is going through great changes and, with China, is likely to inherit the world from the West, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal injustices of society (Indian). That's what I'm trying to do – it is not an attack on the country, it's about the greater process of self-examination. ”

I think that gives a lot of insight into why the Chinese Premier is the recipient of Balram's thoughts. Maybe not from the character's pov, but certainly from the author's.

message 4: by Savanna (last edited Oct 05, 2012 03:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Savanna (SavannaSL) | 35 comments Thanks for sharing that quote, Deborah! It's helpful to know Adiga's intentions.

I think it's because of the shared industrial history and future of these two countries as industrial 'servants' to the West—like the culture of servitude between the Darkness and Light and between Hanuman and Rama—that he's appealing to the Chinese Premier.

I think Balram describes himself as an entrepreneur because instead of submitting to the injustice of this corrupt, hierarchical servitude like his family, he puts his nose to the grindstone and takes advantage as best he can of his position to learn more about those he serves and their class—their language and mannerisms and even how to see his lodgings through the eyes of his employer. He has deliberately chosen to manipulate his employers (as with his fake religious gestures driving them back from his village) rather than be consumed by them (as his father was in dying of TB after working hard and playing by the rules his whole life).

He seems to expect understanding and support from the Chinese Premier, I think because he assumes that this resourceful entrepreneurialism in his own work reflects the ways in which both China and India may be said to have become economically empowered through their own trade relations with the West. Balram regards his own work as servant and murderer as effectively working within a corrupt system to empower himself, just as China and India have borne the scars of colonial oppression but in doing so have gained political power.

So Balram (in an obviously twisted way) has cast off the culture of servitude he's so contemptuous of and become a modern, self-made person. He chooses to address the Premier because he thinks he embodies the same "entrepreneurial" traits of gaining empowerment by exploiting corrupt power structures that China as an industrial country (essentially the entrepreneurial servant) has in its trade relations with the West (essentially the corrupt employer).

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
Savanna, that's a really cogent response.

If we use the parallel of Eastern servitude to the west, is he implicitly advocating striking the west down with a well placed blow to the head, do you think?

Mauk (Rooraus) | 42 comments Hmm... or might it be that he's saying that westerners are a lot like Ashok: (sometimes) mean well but don't understand anything about what it's like to live in the Dark India. Ashok examined Balram in surprise, seemingly confused by the fact that two so different lives could have originated in the same town. I can't remember exactly how the quote went but it had something about they drinking the same water in their home town and so on. Artsy fartsy idea: you could maybe think that as a sort of generalised western confusion (if you assume that a western reader is strikingly well-off in comparison to the characters). We all drink water and see the same sky, and yet the difference between an average American (for example) and an average person from rural India couldn't be more striking.

I'm no expert in matters Indian, but if the interpretation holds water, one can think what that implies with respect to the way Ashok reads and treats Balram. You know... Ashok's relief on hearing Balram lie that he loves his dingy room brings to mind the white man's (guilt) burden. Feeling guilt over having so much when others have nothing and being gullible (or something else) enough to believe when we're told it's ok. ...Does that make any sense?

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
Absolutely it makes a great deal of sense.

I thought a lot about being an American in the wake of your comment. Oddly, (or not oddly perhaps) I see a lot of what I feel when I ponder these questions in the text, as if Adiga and I feel many of the same things about our countries, though for very different reasons. Pride, frustration, disappointment, fear and hope. (Hopefully, that will not be an inappropriately political confession, for a book discussion.)

Savanna (SavannaSL) | 35 comments Deborah wrote: "Savanna, that's a really cogent response.

If we use the parallel of Eastern servitude to the west, is he implicitly advocating striking the west down with a well placed blow to the head, do you t..."

Thanks! I think he's advocating striking down international capitalism with a well placed blow to the head rather than the West itself since the book seems more a criticism of capitalist power relations than of a people.

Mauk (Rooraus) | 42 comments Deborah wrote: "(Hopefully, that will not be an inappropriately political confession, for a book discussion.)"

I'm sure that's ok. ;) And me, too, am doing a sort of compare-and-contrast dialogue with the book.

Deborah | 983 comments Mod
So, if we're thinking then I would say this book succeeds. No?

message 11: by Mauk (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mauk (Rooraus) | 42 comments Very much so! The balance between humor and the seriousness of the themes is perfect... I could give half-stars, I'd give this book 4,5.

Savanna (SavannaSL) | 35 comments I definitely think it succeeds as well. The writing style is really great too. It reminded me of a toned-down Vonnegut with all the black humour and sarcasm and its not being overly descriptive.

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