Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The White Tiger

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The White Tiger

A Novel

by Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2008, 288 pages
    Oct 2008, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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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
  • Vaishyas, traders
  • Shudras, agriculturists, service providers, and select artisan groups.

Below these main castes, and traditionally excluded from larger society, is the group formerly called the Untouchables, now called Dalits (about 160 million/15% of the Indian population). Within each Varna are subgroups call Jati. Balram's last name, Halwai, means sweet maker. He is a member of the sweet maker Jati, within the Shudras caste.

Historically, the castes ...

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