The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga examines the contradicting threads that run through Indian society. It exposes corruption and the exploitation that is all too common in modern Indian society. Adiga juxtaposes the disparate worlds “Light” & “Darkness” to show that prosperity and decency are not compatible in a society with only “two castes”. While the oppression of the land that flows into the “black river” is shown to make it difficult to live a moral life, the wider web of social corruption is shown as integral to the success of “men with big stomachs”. Adiga’s story shows that morality can become a choice after success has been achieved.
Adiga describes a rural population in any other than “paradise” and suggests that to survive, one must make sacrifices of integrity. Balram Halwai, Balram’s narrator, describes how his Laxmangarh home has lost its “defunct” support systems and resources. Adiga portrays the hopelessness of a nation that has nothing left to eat. Balram is struggling to free himself from the “millipedes” of his sleepy cousins. It’s impossible to escape the Darkness. Adiga uses the Ganga symbolism as a metaphor. It is a river of rich, dark, sticky and sticky mud that hinders the growth around vegetation. Balram’s brutal truth about his parents not being able to name him presents a dark picture of the lives and circumstances of those who lack success or comfort. Adiga argues that survival is the only thing that can motivate people in such an oppressive environment. Adiga’s willingness to overlook the shortcomings of exploited people’s principles is evident in his description of his school teacher’s actions, which he had “stolen [their] lunchmoney”. Contrary to what Adiga claims, Vikram Hawai’s “solid morals” may have earned him a good reputation. However, he was ultimately left to live in poverty and without dignity, respect or prosperity. Adiga portrays the “Darkness”, as an absence of the “light” that can lead to success. Adiga highlights the corruption that is pervasive in all aspects of “new India.” Adiga uses Adiga’s example to help drive the modern state’s economic growth. This brings benefits to everyone, but keeps the lower castes behind. Adiga exposes India’s true depravity through its farcical voting system at Laxmangarh. This demonstrates the lack of morality among officials who can manipulate society for their own personal gain. Balram’s dark humor, irony and jokes about being “India’s most faithful voting member” make it clear that such corruption is not uncommon in a country that expects one to be “straight” and “crooked” in order to reach the top ranks of success and status. In the inhumane conditions at the rural hospital where Vikram succumbs to completely curable tuberculosis, you can see the devastating effects of such a moral approach to success. Adiga’s disgraceful description of Balram’s “mopped [his] fathers’ infected blood from the floor”, an option that was available only after Adiga “bribed the boy 10 rupees”, conveys the shameful nature a society with no integrity. Balram’s employment as a “Stork”, an ex-marauding landlord from Laxmangarh, gives us further insight into how the “Light” get their wealth. As Ashok and Stork bribe politicians to keep their dirty coal business afloat, they are shown as completely lacking principles. The Stork’s innate ability to manipulate India’s political, legal, and financial spheres only makes it more destructive. Adiga suggests that luxury and power only serve to diminish an individual’s moral innate sense, which leads to a class of people who are obsessed with success, no matter what the consequences.
Adiga reveals the evil behind India’s boom economy. However, he also shows that morality is possible for some people born to privilege. Those in the Light can choose to temper their judgment with principles and morality, even when the survival instinct dominates their lives. Adiga emphasizes this by referring to Ashok, Balram’s master, whom Adiga calls “The Lamb”. This pseudonym contrasts well with the predatory “raven” or “wild boar labels. Ashok’s morals are what set him apart among other characters in “Light”. Ashok shows concern for the welfare of his servants. He also expresses his sorrow at Balrams’s miserable living conditions. His wife Pinky Madam resents Indian society’s corruption. Balram is surprised that the “lady with the short skirt is also the one who has the conscience”, and Adiga explains to the reader that wealth allows people to have a conscience. Balram’s attitude changes towards integrity and its value as he goes from “Darkness” into “Light”, subverting his master and servant narratives. He is struggling with poverty, and living under the shadows of “men who have big bellies”, and he will readily abandon his principles to make his position better. His efforts culminate in the brutal murder by Ashok. Adiga believes success is a path to morality. He tells his story that “if man wants be good, he’s able to be good” in the Light. This contrasts with the miserable poverty of Laxmangarh. Balram’s foolishness in trying to justify his lack of ability to live by his principles, is observed by the reader. Adiga juxtaposes the ease he has with paying off police after an employee accidentally killed a man with his seemingly sincere attempt to help the victim’s families. Because they are able to feel secure by their success, morality can grow in the psyches some of them in the “Light”.
Adiga’s social commentary explores the role of morality in a corrupt Indian society. He suggests that morality can be a motivator for success but not always. Adiga highlights the gap in prosperity between “Lightness” and “Darkness”, and he also points out the different opportunities to “smell delicious” that are available for those living in poverty and those who have plenty of food to eat. Adiga’s final point is that coexistence of success, morality, and wealth is rare in India.