Analysis Of Balram’s Character In The White Tiger By Aravind Adiga

In The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, Balram is initially portrayed as an appealing character despite informing us of the horrific crimes he has committed. His words, thoughts and deeds reflect his good nature in the beginning. But by the end of the novel, Balram is overtaken by impurity and corruption. He was not born evil, ultimately it was a change caused by the culture of India. We are given the two opposing descriptions of India, The Darkness and The Light, which demonstrates the idea behind two castes in India. The Darkness represents the lower caste full of deprivation and oppression. The Light on the other hand is the upper caste, overflowing with the crooked and unfairness.

The Difference between The Light and The Dark was not only who was in these categories, but also the difference of area into which children are raised. The Light is part of the cities which strive towards the future, one with new businesses, many jobs, and a buselling social setting. This is also however where corruption and deception thrive. The Darkness on the other hand is found in smaller villages where it is less technology based and more based on physical work. The differences between the two are so extreme yet geographically based not far apart. Yet, the poor do not attempt to escape from their caste, even though many would expect it to happen. This is due in part to the idea of the rooster coop presented throughout the novel. This idea lies in part due to the analogy presented about the rooster coop. The poor people of India view themselves as just that and proceed to remain in their current situations with the lack of hope. Balram however, had a different opinion on this.

He is just a child born into The Darkness, one who is expected to work for all his life and do what all men do and provide for their families. He is just a child whose family has “no time to name him”, and as a result he goes by the name of Munna which just means “boy”. Balram is hired at the local tea shop making little money and losing all sense of himself by “doing his job with near total dishonesty, lack of dedication, and insincerity”. Balram in search of a better job and a better life decided to find work as a driver, and even then his family has pressured him to “send every rupee he makes every month back to granny”. After Balram gets the job and becomes a driver he realizes that his family had been trying to “scoop him out from the inside and leave him weak and helpless” as they had already done with his father. This drastic realization of the reality he truly lives in spurs a movement inside of him in which he shifts away from his previously held morals and the ones of his family. This denotes the crucial transition, the beginning of his downward spiral. Balram discovers the hidden secret of Ram Persad the other driver, and instead of just keeping it to himself and he once would've done he “took his key chain from him and put it in his pocket”. This could be viewed as Balram's first act of malicious intent. Although he still retains some of his morality through feeling guilty Balram really notices that the more malicious he is, the happier he is. Being born into The Darkness makes Balram act as a savage animal, one who values individuality and independence more than he values his morality. Balram is not an evil person, but one simply trying to escape from his current situation by any means necessary.

The belief that freedom is his one true desire in life leads to some of his more extreme actions and viewpoints, hence the murder of his former employer Mr Ashok. Which represents Balram's shift into The White Tiger, “The creature that gets born only once every generation”. Balram belives that the murder of Ashok saves him from the shackles of the Darkness. However, Balram did not always view Ashok in such a way. When Balram gets hired as a driver Ashok goes into his room and exclaims that “him and Ram Persad will both get a better room to sleep in” as the one they currently were in was atrocious and an example of an unsuitable living condition. Yet as time goes on the attitude Balram once held about Mr Ashok changed. Ashok claimed that “Balram was part of the family’ when in reality he wasn’t and instead was forced to take the blame for a crime which he had not committed. This made Balram’s blood boil in which he even threatened to “go out and cut the throat of some rich man”. He feels betrayed and used by someone he had so much faith in. When Pinky Madam leaves Ashok his personality and his beliefs change as well. He starts doing things which Balram would not have held to him. Ashok gave into the fat mans request and went into the hotel with the golden haired woman and he walked into the building “like a guilty little boy about to do something very bad”. Balram soon becomes disillusioned with Mr Ashok and loses all the respect he once had towards him. Although Balram soon after began to shift attitudes in a way which mirrored those of Mr Ashok, “all these changes happened in him because they happened first in Mr Ashok”. How can the driver remain innocent when the master is so corrupt? In a way this unleashes the hidden desires deep in Balram's mind and the need for him to escape out of The Darkness and into The Light.

He starts to take advantage of Mr Ashok and what he offered him as a way to earn more money for himself and make himself feel happier. The red bag the symbol of freedom and wealth, and the final piece in Balram's mind to the end of his life in the darkness. The red bag contained not only physical money and could provide him with wealth, but it was also a way for him to see himself. Furthermore, this inadvertent desire to obtain what he was so close to finally receiving, he does the unspeakable and kills his master, the one that gave him so many opportunities that others from his caste may not have received. He dehumanizes Mr Ashok as a way to prevent himself from seeing him as a person and feeling some kind of resentment for his actions and for the realization that he had in fact murdered another person,and one who he at one point was so close to.

The reality of Balram's life was that he was born a servant, nothing more nothing less, and as a result he was not respected by those around him. The feeling which he received from people in his life furthered his shift towards becoming the white tiger and making his actions seem justifiable in his mind. Even though Balram has done so many malicious things he still views himself as successful and even justifies it with the idea that all it took was someone elses money and hard work.

Overall Balram becomes nefarious due to the setting into which he was raised, and Aravind Adiga demonstrates that the portion of India associated with the future, technological advancement, and the rich, is also associated with the consuming factor of corruption. Balram goes from being a rooster stuck in the rooster coop of The Darkness, to the white tiger, an animal so rare, and part of the light.  

16 August 2021
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