Aravind Adigas The White Tiger focuses on the study of Marxism. It can easily be analyzed as Marxist point of view while describing the social and cultural reality of India. The book pictures the bleak, dark and naked facts about India and focuses on the darker economic side of the country. It reveals the bitter facts which unveil the inside of India. The White Tiger can be put in the school of cultural studies and it highlights the power structures and various institutions of the society which are transformed and shaped into different form later on. The writer tries to defend and redefine the social order but he ends up as the spokesman of the Eastern conventions.
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The White Tiger follows the Marxist perspectives. It revolves around the conflict between social, cultural, political issues and the protagonist Balram Halwai who is a victim of extreme poverty. Dominant high culture is suppressing the low class. He is a misfit in the wealthy and powerful Indian elite society. Blaram’s whole life is a struggle. He wants to heighten his position of low rank to a high place where he would be called “big bellied man.”
Each description even minute one in the novel carries Marxist influences. His description of the village, the landlords even the animals like buffaloes show the aristocratic behaviour of the people in authority.
“The water buffalo. She was the fattest thing in our family, this was true in every house in the village. All day long, the women fed her and fed her fresh grass, feeding her was the main thing in their lives. All their hopes were concentrated in her fatness, sirâ€¦ She was the dictator of our house!” (The White Tiger, p-20)
The drinks, wines of Western and Eastern people show the difference between poor and rich:
“There are two kinds of Indian: ‘Indian’ liquor men and ‘English’ liquor men.
‘Indian’ liquor was for village boys like me, toddy, arrack, country hooch. ‘English’ liquor, naturally, is for the rich. Rum, whisky, beer, gin, anything the English left behind.” (The White Tiger, p.-73)
Then he portrays the difference of dogs of both of these classes. Treatments of dogs are also unjust:
“The rich expect their dogs to be treated like human, you see, they expect their dogs to be pampered, and walked, and petted, and even washed!… Then I took them around the compound on a chain while the king of Nepal sat in a corner and shouted, don’t pull the chain so hard! They’re worth more than you are!”(P-78)
Balram thinks that he is living in a materialistic world and history is nothing other than class struggle between rich and poor. He has no respect for ethical values like religion, beliefs and values. He mocks the religion and rituals that are practiced by Hindus. These lines depict his satirical tone:
“Now, I no longer watch Hindi films-on principle-but back in the days when I used to, just before the movie got started, either the number 786 would flash against the black screen-the Muslims think this is a magic number that represents their god-or else you would see the picture of a woman in a white sari with gold sovereigns dripping down to her feet, which is the goddess Lakshmi, of the Hindus.” (The White Tiger 6)
He is more tilted towards atheism. This is again a Marxist influence:
“Now, there are some, and I don’t just mean Communists like you, but thinking men of all political parties, who think that not many of these gods actually exist. Some believe that none of them exist. There are just us and an ocean of darkness around us.” (The White Tiger 6)
Balram is against the political system of India. To him the politicians are robots and the mass media have a great impact on the rulers, they are not public servants. Money runs them.
The White Tiger is an embodiment of capitalism. Adiga in one of his interviews said that he wrote the book to capture the voices of weak and poor class. He, therefore, places his novel within the social, economical and historical context to make us realize how the economic exploitation drives the lives of people. He writes about the jails of Delhi:
“The jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are there behind bars because they are taking the blame for their good, solid middle-class masters. We have left the villages, but the masters still own us, body, soul and â€¦” (The White Tiger-170)
Adiga replies to a question on poverty, internal unrest and terrorism in the program named “You ask the question” that there are many problems breeding within the country but the theme of these problem is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, he says that the policies are needed to be reformed because they are lagging behind the terrorists.
Balram worked as a driver of his master Ashok. He takes them to shopping plazas, carry their bags. The harsh behavior of rich class is shown when Balram lost the coin while getting out of the car:
‘Get down on your knees. Look for it on the floor of the car. I got down on my knees. I sniffed in between the mats like a dog, all in search of that one rupee. ‘What do you mean, it’s not there? Don’t think you can steal from us just because you’re in the city. I want that rupee.’ That’s how you corrupt servants. It starts with one rupee. Don’t bring your American ways here where that rupee coin went remains a mystery to me to this day, Mr. Premier. Finally, I took a rupee coin out of my shirt pocket, dropped it on the floor of the car, picked it up, and gave it to the Mongoose.”(P-139)
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The suppressed class finds itself trapped in constant mental pressures that shape their needs and desires. This class has to work under elite class regardless of their personal demands and satisfaction. Same is the case with Balram, he is a type of servant to Ashok although he earns money with his own efforts, and he does not take charity from his master but the attitude of society forces him to believe that he is no more than an animal to his boss. The following lines have symbolic significance regarding ruler-master relationship:
“When master and driver find each other’s eyes in this mirror, it swings open like a door into a changing room, and the two of them have suddenly caught each other naked?” (The White Tiger-199)
The norms of loyalty and sincerity started to breakdown when the capitalist relations replace the tradition of trust and respect and loyalty. The humanity is betrayed by such materialistic notions. Balram’s words are: “trustworthiness of servants which is the basis of the entire Indian economy.”(P-175)
Balram rejects those characters who lead the new social order. His great fear is that he has to fake the ideals of sincerity and loyalty to make his own way to live in the world:
“You should have seen me that day – what a performance of wails and kisses and tears! You’d think I’d been born into a caste of performing actors! And all the time, while clutching the Stork’s feet, I was staring at his huge, dirty, uncut toenails, and thinking, what is he doing in Dhanbad? Why isn’t he back home..” (The White Tiger 61)
The title of the novel “The White Tiger” also has Marxist significance. This title has been used several times from different people to address Balram. The story revolves around the tiger imprisoned in the cage it is similar to the low class imprisoned in the cage of the suppressing class. The circumstances and society of India is similar to the tiger which is bound and chained in the cage. The following lines also show the Marxist views of Balram:
“The institutions of justice exist for those only who are worth to live. The criterion for this worth stands on the footing of money and power. Power again is the grandchild of money.” (The White Tiger 145)
Balram is a supporter of Marxist stance. To him the workers have no hold on the things they produce. They build houses for rich people and they themselves have to live in tents ad unhygienic places. The conditions in which Balram is grown up are of extreme starvation and suppression. The family relations and duties of family meant nothing to him. His thinking is shaped by materialism. He takes relationships on materialistic terms. Following words of Balram on murder of his master Ashok are:
“I could gloat that I am not just any murderer, but one who killed his own employer (who is a kind of second father), and also contributed to the probable death of all his family members. A virtual mass murdererâ€¦ Mr Ashok’s face reappears now in my mind’s eye as it used to every day when I was in his service – reflected in my rearview mirror. It was such a handsome face that sometimes I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Picture a six-foot-tall fellow, broad-shouldered, with a landlord’s powerful, punishing forearms, yet always gentle (almost always, except for that time he punched Pinky Madam in the face) and kind to those around him, even his servants and driver.” (The White Tiger 45, 46)
Balram’s success is based on the bribe he gave to political institution. He is unable to draw a line difference between justice and fairness as his act is heinous. Balram is living in a country where one can prove himself through money, power and industry. No one is committed to moral values. His lines describe the scenario:
“I’m tomorrow. In terms of formal education, I may be somewhat lacking. I never finished school, to put it bluntly. Who cares! I haven’t read many books, but I’ve read all the ones that count. I know by heart the works of the four greatest poets of all time, Rumi, Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib, and a fourth fellow whose name I forget. I am a self-taught entrepreneur.” (The White Tiger 6)
The tone of Balram throughout the novel is materialistic. According to the narrator, the political, social and cultural systems are replete with materialism. He takes the world as a place to practice Marxist notion.
Aravind Adiga describes the corruption and exploitation which is ruining the nations. Authority is everything. George Orwell’s words very beautifully explain the condition of rich class:
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
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