There are two ways to view Balram Halwai, the protagonist in
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger
Is he downright evil, or is he
forced into taking desperate measures to free himself from India's oppressive
caste system? Balram refuses to send money home to his struggling family,
kills his boss, and then skips town, even though he knows what devastating
effects his murderous act will have on his kin when his employer's family
discovers what he has done. Is he a heinous character, or is he just taking
advantage of certain opportunities. Either way, he's manipulative and anxious to
succeed in a world that is completely against him.
In a funny, derisive tale about life in modern India, Aravind Adiga creates a
modern-day Iago* with money on the brain. Balram, also called 'the boy' and 'the
white tiger,' narrates his life's story in a series of...
Beyond the Book
The Caste System
Without his violent act, Balram Halwai would have had trouble
accessing upward social mobility because of the strict caste system in India.
Many Westerners believe, because India is officially a democracy and the Indian
constitution of 1949 banned it, that the caste system is a thing of the past,
but in many aspects of Indian society, it is alive and well.
There are four castes or varnas:
Brahmins, teachers, scholars, and priests
Kshatriyas, kings and warriors
Shudras, agriculturists, service providers,
and select artisan groups.
Below these main castes, and traditionally
excluded from larger society, is...