Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Changing India

“The White Tiger”, Aravind Adiga’s first novel, won the 2008 Man Booker Prize. The story begins as a letter to a Chinese premier, Wen Jiabio, who is coming to visit Bangalore, India, the present home of the protagonist, Balram Halwai. Balram proceeds to tell the Premier his life story through a series of emails written over a period of seven nights. Mr. Adiga has created a narrator with an incredibly new and exciting voice. Balram is a naïve, witty, charming but suspect narrator. Balram, the self proclaimed White Tiger, tells the Premier he is a successful “entrepreneur”, a self made man, living in Bangalore. The letters tell the amazing tale of a poor boy from a village in the “Darkness” who decides to better himself by becoming a driver to a family of rich landlords. How he accomplishes this feat is told with charming, sarcastic wit.

Early in the story we find that Balram decides he must murder his employer to escape the prison of poverty that surrounds the people of his caste. The novel is Balram’s self serving, self-analysis of all the events that lead him to murder his employer. On the one hand we sympathize with Balram and all the people who are the servants of the wealthy class in India. But the reader can’t help but feel, as this strange tale unfolds, that they are in the presence of a sociopath.

“The White Tiger” is a remarkable story, written with compelling prose, about the present social inequalities of the classes in India. It has been compared to Richard Wright’s “Native Son”, which took place in Chicago in the 1940’s. “The White Tiger” is a grim look at the class system of India and may have a great social impact on the new developing India.

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