Similar to carvings in wood, character is molded by indents- through pain and suffrage. This notion is evident in Aravind Adiga’s novel, The White Tiger, in which Balram Halwaii seeks to create his own destiny. Having no role models within his family to help to guide him along his fated path, Balram quickly becomes determined to free himself of the corruptness embedded in India’s system. In order to escape, however, he must be ambitious, risky, and even unethical. Balram must face and overcome the dark realities of his caste if he ever wants to taste freedom. Due to the circumstances of being raised without true parents, and living within a city of corruptness allow Balram’s actions throughout the novel, though some unethical, to be justified.
Balram is raised in the lower-social caste town of Laxmangrah. He witnesses the death of both his parents, from diseases in both of which could have been cured had they been members of a high-caste. Balram’s father, Vikram, succumbed to tuberculosis. While at the deserted hospital, Balram learns of the ignorance of India’s government as they failed to care for his father’s condition and illness. “The way boys made us clean up our Father before we could remove the body. A goat came in and sniffed as were mopping the blood off the floor. The ward boys petter her and fed her a plump carrot as we mopped our father’s infected blood off the floor.” (42). The horrific death of Vikram emphasizes the dark reality of the caste system Balram is caged in. An innocent life lost that Balram always respected and admired, a life that protected him from his fear of lizards, and taught him to always have pride in everything he does, is now the same exact life that had to be mopped off the dirty floor by his very own son.
The abandonment of life in India numbed Balram as a boy, and who could blame him. He quickly realizes following his father’s death that he lives in a dog-eat-dog society and home. Everyone is out there for himself or herself, and no hero is coming to save Balram from his corrupted society. He thinks back to his encounter with his. “I couldn’t stop thinking of Kishan’s body. They were eating him alive in there! They would do the same thing to him that they did to father- scoop him out from the inside and leave him weak and helpless until he got tuberculosis and died on the floor of a government hospital…” (74).
Balram realizes that the women within his family, especially his grandmother, use the men for endless labor to provide for the family, wearing them down until they look like skeletons. His grandmother’s letters of blackmail demanding money from Balram are another example of greediness within the family. Balram realizes that he truly is alone and must fend for himself. No one in his family will help to guide him forward, leaving a young boy helpless. Family members are usually viewed as role models and are the first people one will often go to for advice, but Balram never had that opportunity.
India is a city of corruptness and lies. Balram states “one fact about India is that you can take almost anything you hear about the country from the prime minister and turn it upside down and then you will have the truth about that thing.” (12). This quote helps to explain how deceitful India really is, as everything is a lie. Also present in the Indian society is servitude. The servants work their fingers to the bone and hail down to their employer expressing the utmost amount of pride. Even if a starving servant were to stumble upon two million rupees accidentally left behind by the upper cast, the servant would not touch it, as Waller states, “because they are a part of a rooster coop, they will not take advantage of the careless mistakes of the upper castes.” It is unbelievable how much respect a servant can have for his master, yet the master can have none for his servant. Balram and his family are members of the lowest caste in India, and the only lower they could get is if buried underground into death.
The economy of India will not seem to change either, as only the rich have a say and obviously have nothing to complain about. The rulers of India also believe that their country is perfect; but they clearly do not see the deaths of innocent lives or the walking skeletons just trying to survive day by day in the lower castes, being treated like none other than a bug on a wall. To say the least, the political system is corrupt. People in the lower castes, like Balram, live for nothing other than an income, sacrificing every last bit of energy and even their lives to support their families and employers.
It seems as if the government is blind, and refuses to face the poverty epidemic, which has spread throughout the country. If only the citizens of India could vote for a new leader, but it seems as if the government owns their votes as well. The only way for Balram to move up in society would be to take risks, be determined, and to have a sense of immortality. No one should live in a country of corruptness, and if the only way to escape it would be to take some unethical actions, by all means would the actions are justified.
In conclusion, growing up with no sense of guidance and living within a society of wickedness allows Balram’s actions taken over the course of the novel to be justified. Fueled by his dark life of having witnessed his father die, and being stripped of his pride by the rich, Balram is rightfully determined to escape the rooster coop and reach the light. Hopefully Balram can find a way to embrace the nothingness he is raised with as an advantage later in the novel. It takes a white tiger, an animal that comes around only once in a generation, to break away from societal rules. As Robert Frost once said, “Freedom lies in being bold.”
Courtney from Study Moose
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