Social Critique Of Indian Society
Aravind Adiga in his Man Booker Prize winning novel, The White Tiger, exposes the reader to many malpractices in Indian Democracy and society. The novel is a social criticism focusing on the poverty and misery of India, and its various social conflicts, presented through the life of a lower class, ordinary Indian, Balram Halwai. This paper attempts an in-depth analysis of the social critiques made by Adiga through using Honore De Balzac's, Pere Goriot, to explain the points Adiga is trying to make.
The main theme of the paper deals with the social classes and their relationships, process of social development or the lack of it, and corruption within the government affecting Indian society. First, Adiga makes a clear distinction between the social classes in India while explaining the relationship between them. Adiga writes, "India is two countries in one: an India of Light, and an India of Darkness" (p.12). The darkness is the area where the Ganges River flows through. Like Balzac, Adiga also uses references of mud when describing the Ganges River as "sticky mud whose grip traps everything that is planted in it" (p.12).
In Pere Goriot, Balzac argues that "You cant take two steps, here in Paris, without seeing something dirt going on" (Balzac 85). The mud is dirty and in a sense represents the darkness in Adiga's novel. It is thought that mostly poor, lower class individuals live in the darkness. The light on the other hand is the area near the ocean. Most civilizations near the ocean are well off according to Adiga.
Balram, who is from the darkness, sees his own life as a passage into the light, but along the way he discards almost every meaningful relationship including his brother, grandmother, boss, religion, and the law on his way to the Light.In addition, the relationship between the darkness and light is tricky to understand. The people of the darkness are usually servants to the people of the Light. Adiga mostly focuses on the Master vs. Servant relationship between Balram and his master Mr.
Ashok. By doing so, Adiga is showing readers the large difference in the quality of life between two different classes. Servants such as Balram are treated very poorly by their owners. Balram's landlord boss and his wife are caricatures of the insensitive upper classes, cruel to and remote from their servants. Adiga is not exaggerating in describing the upper class attitude towards the lower class.
Belittling of servants takes place everyday in India where individuals such as Balram are looked at as less than human, when it came to the eyes of the upper class. There are many poor people in India where most individuals get used to seeing them suffer and therefore care less about them. Adiga exposes the mistreatment in his novel when Mr.
Ashok asks Balram to "leave the bags anywhere you want", while Mr. Ashok's brother, the Mongoose interjects, "No, Put them down next to the table, put them down exactly there" (p.108). Mr. Ashok is not used to seeing this type of treatment of human beings.
In contrast, the Mongoose, who has lived in India, is used to treating servants like their property. This is a mild example of the control and dominance the upper class has over the poor.Furthermore, the submission of the lower class people isn't just a simple case of the rich taking advantage of the poor, but rather the poor keeping themselves down. For example, every time Balram comes into the living room of the Buckingham towers, he sits on the floor next to the couch as opposed to on the couch. This shows that Balram himself doesn't believe he is equal to his master. Throughout the novel, Adiga refers to employers as masters.
This master-servant relationship is far more socially intertwined than any ordinary form of employment. Mr. Ashok provides shelter and is a source of food for Balram, just like a dog is with his owner. In the text Balram says, "I knew without being told I also had to take care of the apartment" (108). This self defeating behavior makes it impossible for lower class individuals to get out of the proverbial "rooster coop".Another issue that Adiga deals with is social development or the lack of it.
India is a growing nation with many smart entrepreneurs. Adiga believes "that the future of the world lies with the yellow man and the brown man" (4). Entrepreneurial success is the hallmark of India. Although there is growth and prosperity in India, it is not equally available for everyone to achieve.
Adiga writes "You Chinese are far ahead of us in every respect, except that you don't have entrepreneur. And our nation, though it has no drinking water, electricity, sewage system, public transportation, sense of hygiene, discipline, courtesy, or punctuality, does have entrepreneurs" (2). India has set up many outsourcing companies that practically run America. But yet it has millions of poor individuals who lack the skills and knowledge to even live in this social atmosphere.
Individuals such as Balram learn through the world around them and its up to them to escape the uneducated, and socially condemned world of the darkness.Additionally, the people who help india grow and proserper are the same individuals who restrict the growth of social development. Adiga explains, "My country is the kind where it pays to play it both ways: the Indian entrepreneur has to be strait and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time" (6). The secrets of success in a modern globalized world has summed up in the last section of the novel. Murder, manipulation, malpractices, opportunism, bribery, absconding police and judicial proceedings are all justified for success and teaching based on the facts of life.Lastly, Adiga addresses social issues such as corruption in the government.
Political system and bureaucratic set up in the novel refers to the darkest area of our country which breed, "rottenness and corruption" (46) in Indian society and hamper all developmental and welfare schemes. It restricts half of the country from achieving its potential. Most of the politicians are "half-baked.
That's the whole tragedy of the country". (8) The story of Balram's emergence is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced. Politics is the last refuge for scoundrels. Government doctors, entrepreneurs, tax payers, industrialists all have to befriend a minister and his sidekick to fulfill their vested interests.
Mr. Ashok also bribes the minister to settle income tax accounts. Elections are manipulated and power transfers from one hand to another but the common man's fate remains unchanged. Balzac claims to have to same critique of French society stating that "moralists are never going to change anything. Man's an imperfect creature" (86).
Money, power, help of police, strategic alignment of various factions all assure the victory in the political game in India. Balram reports: "I am India's most faithful voter, and I still have not seen the inside of a voting booth". (86) This rotten system has created new distinctions and classes. In the past there were over thousands of castes and destinies in India now just two castes: "Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies. And only two destinies: eat-or get eaten up". (54) This idea of man eat man world is similar to that of Balzac's idea of morality. Balzac writes, "This is the way things are.
Life's no prettier than a kitchen, it stinks just as bad and if you want to get anything done you have to get your hands dirty" (Balzac 86).In Conclusion, Aravind Adiga's novel, The White Tiger, exposes the reader to many social issues in Indian society. The novel is a social criticism focusing on the poverty and misery of India, and its various social conflicts, presented through the life of a lower class, ordinary Indian, Balram Halwai. Adiga's critique the social classes and their relationships, process of social development or the lack of it, and corruption within the government affecting Indian society. Just when people think that the world has been raving about the economic miracle of India, in a brutal confession by Adiga's, The White Tiger, Balram Halwai exposes the rot in the three pillars of modern India democracy, enterprise and justice reducing them to the tired clichés of a faltering nation.
There is still a widening gap between the rich and poor, rural and urban, and the brutal reality of an economic system that allows a small minority to flourish at the expense of the silent majority of the darkness. Adiga's novel attempts to bring light into the darkness to expose the truth about India in order to close the ever widening gap between the light and darkness.
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