The Creative Section (Vol. 5, No. 1) is on its way and will be published by the end of May, 2024.

A Study on Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger as a Catastrophic Novel


A Study on Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger as a Catastrophic Novel

Dr. S. Sudha

Assistant Professor

Department of English

Dr. N. G. P. Arts and Science College

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India



Facts are forming as stories and the stories are the formation of truth. The inherent truth is a story seems to have changed its form to become disaster novels of the century. The disaster novel of the ‘present’ is making ‘news’ personal and intimate and actually born out of it, as news are everywhere. It is elaborated by the writers like Jonathan Safran Foer and Don De Lillo, Indra Sinha, Amitava Kumar, Shashi Tharoor, Robin David and Aravind Adiga are some of the writers throw their lights on disaster novels. The White Tiger is on Adiga’s understanding of insider-outsider complexes in Indian culture. It is not a realistic novel but magic realism can be acceptable in various senses. The paper focuses on how this episodic novel carries elements of suspense and thrill. As a novel of booker prize, The White Tiger contains lot of qualities to analyze in the way of disaster novel.  

Keywords: Disaster novel, Episodic novel, Social disaster, Religious faith, Indian Slavery

While reading a genre, one can express his feelings like weep, laugh, or mourn. Like most literatures, the commonwealth literature expands the scope about the world. Through divulging the ill of the society, the commonwealth writers satirize the unpopular manifestations of their society in order to educate the populace. The idea of commonwealth literature is quite straight forward because it is the literature produced by countries which are former colonies for Britain or had the dominions. The commonwealth studies potentially offer democratic interpretation of modernized societies and communities more than colonialism.

These novels have the real-universal element of such strong-minded literature despite the focus on actual issues. These novels revolve around social disasters. Amitava Kumar’s Home Products (2007) give a realistic account of social complexities of small town in Bihar showing the aspiration of the ‘Amm admi’, similar to what Adiga does in The White Tiger (2008). The novel makes a change in its shape and it is a visual picture of the corrupted Indian society and shows how the innocents are also polluted by the politicians.

Aravind Adiga was born in affluent professional family in Madras on October 23, 1914. He admits that he had greatly influenced by Salman Rushdie and three African – Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright are three postwar American writers. The White Tiger is the novel of realistic vein, which rebukes on subalterns who has been focusing through cinemas, short stories and of course media hyped news-stories. The novel is narrated using unanswered questions. “The narration reveals not only Balram's personal story, but also the corrupt system that operates in two Indias - India of bright and India of dark. (14, A Freakish) This novel starts in a letter form which is addressed to Chinese Primier. While he is addressing himself, he writes as,

The White Tiger,

A thinking man

and entrepreneur,

living at the world's centre for technology and sourcing,

Electronic City Phase 1 (just off Hosur Main Road)


India. (3)

These words show the mental ability of him. Like that he never wants to give up his courage whether he is right or wrong. He says to the Chinese Premier that the both do not know English but he is ready to share some thing in English. In that letter he quotes the corrupted status of India. He claims that India lacks potable water, power, and a sewage system, as well as a sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, and timeliness. He says, “…there are entrepreneurs. There are thousands upon thousands of them. Especially in the technological field. And these entrepreneurs - we entrepreneurs - have established all of these out-sourcing firms that now effectively control America.” (4) Continuously he quotes that when premier comes to India, he may knock by some boys to sell the books such as "The Ten Secret of Business Success!" or "Start Your Own Business in Seven Days!" by conveying these he says American books are about yesterday but he is for tomorrow.

Balram is a man of humour. He describes the religions and its faith in a manner of humour. Through Balram, Adiga details the mockery of religions. It is mandatory to know what religion is and what role it plays in shaping the Indian culture. In his view religion is a psychic urge with thoughts, will and feeling, actually embraces the faith that conserves value which helps a man in realizing god. It is a force that unites all under a main source. India is a country of spirituality. The spirituality is the outcome of the long processes of worship and the devotion of the rishis and munis. They guided the people to a discipline and religious life. In this novel, Balram, the protagonist considers himself as Hanuman who serves Ram and Sita. But later this Hanuman (Balram) kills his Rama (Master, Ashok). When he enters into Bangalore with his bribe money he changes his name as Ashok. The meaning of Ashok is ‘without sarrow’. This name is associated with king Ashok, a 3rd century BC emperor in India.

Balram mocks the Hindus religious faith. He calls the gods as ‘asses’ it is indeed an insult to India and its culture. He says he is not communist but he mocks god. He mentions as ‘asses’ which has two meanings as a part of human body and another is ‘irritating’. The number of goods may irritate him. He abuses as well as shows his respect to Gods. As a thinker and says, these Gods do not exist and he declares that he is not a philosopher. He compares these Gods with the politicians who have no work expect winning re-election. Balram Halwai considers religion as the cause of Indian slavery and it never allows the people to raise against the master:

Inside is an image of a saffron-colored creature that is half man and half monkey: Hanuman, everyone's favorite, is banished into the darkness. Do you know anything about Hanuman, sir? He was a devoted servant of the god Rama, and we honour him in our temples as a shining instance for how to serve your lord with utmost dedication, love, and devotion. Mr. Jiabao understands now how difficult it is for an individual to win his freedom in India because of the gods they have placed on him. (19)

The novelist becomes a victim of the western mentality. Through Balram, Adiga focuses on the two division of India. On the basis of ocean and rivers, he separates India into two distinct regions: dark India and light India. Balram refers to India as the third most fertile country, full of rice fields choked with lotuses and water lilies. The surroundings of river are considered as the place of darkness and the ocean and its surroundings are well off. “…India is two nations in one: one of light and one of darkness. The water illuminates my country. Every location on the geographical representation of India along the ocean is remote. However, the river--the black river--brings gloom to India.” (14) According to him, Bangalore is the only city that is full of light though the people are like animals.

Through Balram the lights are focused on the rural and urban life style. He pictures his childhood which is always with his father and the tea shop where he worked after his death. He says that drivers of rickshaws are not allowed to make use of on the tea shop's plastic chairs. They formed a line with their rickshaws and waited for the bus to unload its passengers. They were forced to huddle near the rear, bowed over. It is a crouching stance widespread among servants throughout India. The rural people of India are mostly impoverished people in the world. Most of the people have lived in the same village for many generations where the skills, knowledge, and land have been handed down to the children. Life has reminded the same for generations. In The White Tiger, Laxmangarh, in India is depicted as one such village is described as ‘Typical Indian Paradise.’

Electricity poles are no longer in service. a broken water tap Children, too slender and short for their age, with large heads and bright eyes, like the government of India's guilty conscience. Yes, Mr. Jiabao, a classic Indian village paradise. I'll have to travel to China one day to see if the villages in your paradises are any better. (20)

Balram conveys that the ladies in village depend on Buffalos’ milk for their daily lifehood. Balram is recognized as an untouchable, marginalized, dehumanized and oppressed person. In India of darkness, he visualized the poor as bonded labours. Balram says that the land lords are feeding on the poor. He selects the names as Stroke, Buffalo, Raven, and Wild Boar for the names of land lords. Due to their large debts, the four landowners, who have animal characteristics and own practically everything, make the lives of rural people unpleasant. Slavery in villages creates slavish tenancies. The 'Harijans,' an outcast, are persecuted. Balram's father recognises the significance of education. He is a "planner." He desires that his son learn to read and write. Balram’s father and his brother are slaves; following it, his father’s death leads him into slave. The nature of slavery has subtly changed.

   Balram decides to flee the coop due to social marginalization. The first step is to leave the family in the village. When he is not working, he spends his time in the city with drivers, such as the vitiligo - lips and others. He becomes aware of the disparities that exist in India between the haves and have-nots. As a poor in city he tries to practice a number of ways to cheat and deceive his employers. He has started to lie, deceive and filch to be like his master. He has started drinking and dresses like his master. He goes to visit the city mall longs for the prostitute with golden hair. He compares himself with Mr. Ashok who is his master. Balram longs for the life of his master. When Pinky makes an accident he is forced to own responsibility for that accident. The frustration reaches its crescendo and rankled by the inequality in distribution of power. Balram notices that men sit together and read. They huddle together and discuss.

   When discussing about Indian Revolution, Balram portrays the revolution may not happen in Indians’ life. People in this nation are still waiting for the liberation fight to arrive from somewhere else-the jungles, the mountains, China, and Pakistan. That is not going to happen. Each guy must construct his own Benares. "This city has its share of things and politicians," he says. That's all there is to it here. A man can be good if he wants to. He doesn't even have this option in Laxmangarh. It is the distinction betwixt this India and that India is the choice" (306). Balram talks about the migration process and for him this migration is from darkness, which he relates with the stagnant, unproductive and devoid lives living in poverty admits unemployment and non-educative atmosphere to light. All lessons to become entrepreneur Balram learns from his professions.

   Like a good driver, he learnt to roar a head in life. His unique acumen to ROAR reminds him of the comment made by the inspector of his village school. The murder of slum boy was put on Balram by his employers in Delhi. He apologizes to the bereaved family and gives them an envelope with 20,000 Rs, which is accepted. The individual just yields to the system and poor have no choice. The rich has some qualms and thinks of his head master with affection. “The White Tiger by Adiga has a social message that effectively illustrates the repercussions of subservience, exclusion, and relocation on the protagonist's mind.” (66, Pathak). A man who is shown in the beginning of the story as a decent and talented person who reflects on corruption, disintegrate brutality, and wicked activities of others and laments the plight of the poor. He shows that strong people may openly and proudly fight for his rights. Balram utilises adjectives like freedom, servitude, lightness, and darkness to describe himself. He does not only want money, but easy money. He transforms into the stoke, buffalo, and raven that he used to be. He used to want to be a man but his life leads him what he did not want to be in his childhood. His behavioral changes ask a question, “Is he living as a human?” Balram is an example for the innocent people who are tempted by the illegal society and leading the whole society to disaster. It may be any society most of the people are living as Balram. They lost their real identity by the corrupted society. The White Tiger adduces the societal disasters of Indian society which makes it as a disaster novel.

Works Cited

Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger. India: Harper Collin pb, 2008.

Nimsarkar, P. D. Aravind Adiga An Anthology of Critical Essays. New Delhi: Creative Books, 2010.

Arora, K. Sudhir. Aravind Adiga’s The WTA Freakish Booker. New Delhi: Authors press, 2011.