Adiga’s portrait of the Indian capital is very funny but unmistakably angry. From his master’s Honda, an increasingly unhinged Balram observes a city riven with status anxiety, where every sparkling new mall hides in its hinterland a flea-bitten market for service staff; every bottle of Johnnie Walker has a bootleg counterpart. Above all, it’s a vision of a society of people complicit in their own servitude: to paraphrase Balram, they are roosters guarding the coop, aware they’re for the chop, yet unwilling to escape … Balram’s violent bid for freedom is shocking. What, we’re left to ask, does it make him – just another thug in India’s urban jungle or a revolutionary and idealist? It’s a sign of this book’s quality, as well as of its moral seriousness, that it keeps you guessing to the final page and beyond.
The White Tiger echoes masterpieces of resistance and oppression (both The Jungle and Native Son come to mind). But Adiga depicts the modern Indian dilemma as unique. Intense family loyalties and a culture of servitude clash with the unfulfilled promises of democracy … The White Tiger contains passages of startling beauty – from reflections on the exquisite luxury of a chandelier in every room, to descriptions of skinny drivers huddled around fires fueled by plastic bags. Adiga never lets the precision of his language overshadow the realities at hand: No matter how potent his language one never loses sight of the men and women fighting impossible odds to survive.
Halwai, we learn right away, has climbed his way out of this environment and now runs a successful start-up corporation, but he is wanted by the law for a murder. Over the course of seven days, he describes his miraculous journey to Chinese politician Wen Jiabao in a series of letters that veer between acid sarcasm and shaky remorse. This gambit is hardly the work of a finesse writer, but it allows Adiga, who formerly worked as a business journalist, to report on his country to an outsider without needing to apologize for the constant sweep and scope of his narrative lens … Sarcasm is Adiga's sledgehammer, morality his anvil. It's not a subtle tale, but there's a beaten, beveled perfection to its fury.
As a parable of the new India...Balram’s tale has a distinctly macabre twist. He is not (or not only) an entrepreneur but a roguish criminal with a remarkable capacity for self-justification. Likewise, the background against which he operates is not just a resurgent economy and nation but a landscape of corruption, inequality and poverty … There is an absence of human complexity in The White Tiger, not just in its characters but, more problematically, in its depiction of a nation that is in reality caught somewhere between Adiga’s vision and the shinier version he so clearly — and fittingly — derides. Lacking this more balanced perspective, the novel feels simplistic: an effective polemic, perhaps, but an incomplete portrait of a nation and a people grappling with the ambiguities of modernity.
Aravind Adiga's first novel is couched as a cocksure confession from a deceitful, murderous philosopher runt who has the brass neck to question his lowly place in the order of things … There is much to commend in this novel, a witty parable of India's changing society, yet there is much to ponder. The scales have fallen from the eyes of some Indian writers, many either living abroad, or educated there like Adiga. The home country is invariably presented as a place of brutal injustice and sordid corruption, one in which the poor are always dispossessed and victimised by their age-old enemies, the rich. Characters at the colourful extremities of society are Dickensian grotesques, Phiz sketches, adrift in a country that is lurching rapidly towards bland middle-class normality. My hunch is this is fundamentally an outsider's view and a superficial one.
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger attempts to tell the story of contemporary India, of those few who have money and those great many who do not, of caste and class and stifled desire. He captures this incongruous land by blending a Chuck Palahniuk-style confession with a Nanny Diaries ironic insider's look at India's wealthy. This alternatingly funny and tragic anatomy of abuse and crushed hope is depicted by a well-meaning yet ambitious young man named Balram Halwai … Does The White Tiger live up to its own ambitions? Sort of. There comes a moment in this book where the narrative has a real chance to leave behind the pop and fluff of The Nanny Diaries irony and achieve a deep Orwellian insight...It is here that the novel falls apart. The poignancy of Balram's desolation lasts only for a moment.
The White Tiger displays such a mean-spirited voice and a brutal distortion of the lives of poor rural Indians that it makes its celebration puzzling … The White Tiger chooses Bihar, the poor state in eastern India—always maligned by reporters who rarely visit there to report on it—as emblematic of poverty and savagery. The fact that none of the characters are fully realized or sympathetic may be the sign of satire, but if so, it also suggests (and many reviewers seem to agree) that they stand for the real depravity of Biharis. Adiga’s labeling this place as ‘Darkness’ in contrast to Civilization (Bangalore) can’t possibly escape a comparison to Joseph Conrad. And sure enough Adiga’s description of village life follows from so many stereotypes found in colonial literature.
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is one of the most powerful books I've read in decades. No hyperbole. This debut novel from an Indian journalist living in Mumbai hit me like a kick to the head — the same effect Richard Wright's Native Son and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man had. But Tiger isn't about race or caste in India. It's about the vast economic inequality between the poor and the wealthy elite … This is an amazing and angry novel about injustice and power.
We know at the start of the book that Balram is an ‘entrepreneur’ in Bangalore, the hub of ‘all these outsourcing companies that virtually run America now.’ We also learn early on of the brutal act that helped get him there. But the particulars of his progress are a mystery. And the motives behind his actions take some time to unfold. His story, significantly, is addressed to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, due to visit Bangalore, to whom Balram feels a special link … perhaps because the Chinese are the ones supplying arms to India’s revolutionary Naxal movement. Balram, clawing his way up from the bottom, has no objection to someone upsetting the whole apple cart.
...a fascinating glimpse beneath the surface of an Indian economic ‘miracle,’ a heart-stopping psychological tale of a premeditated murder and its aftermath, and a meticulously conceived allegory of the creative destruction that's driving globalization … The truth, as Balram portrays it, turns out to be quite a bit darker than anything you may have read in the business pages about the subcontinent's boulevards of gleaming new office towers. And while his against-all-odds rise owes much to hard work, courage, and determination, Balram most decidedly lacks the selfless virtue of the bootstrapping Horatio Alger character: He claws his way from indentured servitude to economic empowerment via acts of ruthlessness and, as he confesses in the first chapter, murder.
...a remarkably authentic portrayal of the life of the underdog — a representative of the many millions of Indians who live and die in mind-numbing deprivation … Adiga is so good at imagining the life of the outcast that the novel is an often scary reminder of the pitfalls of overlooking the plight of the underprivileged. When Balram drives his master around Gurgaon, the sight of scantily clad women is a shock to him — not just because women in the Darkness do not dress provocatively, but also because he is humiliated by his inability to have a slice of the ‘fast life’ … Adiga's debut novel is a highly realized work — a dazzling, brutal look at the unsavory side effects of India's rapidly globalizing economy.
Adiga...writes forcefully about a corrupt culture; unfortunately, his commentary on all things Indian comes at the expense of narrative suspense and character development. Thus he writes persuasively about the so-called Rooster Coop, which traps family-oriented Indians into submissiveness, but fails to describe the stages by which Balram evolves from solicitous servant into cold-blooded killer. Adiga’s pacing is off too, as Balram too quickly reinvents himself in Bangalore, where every cop can be bought.