Is Balram's murder of his master a spontaneous act, triggered by Balram's disillusionment or is it due to more complex reasons?
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Avarind Adiga's White Tiger is a powerful novel describing the inequities of life in India. It is an epistlolary novel that begins with Balram's confession that he is a wanted man in India. We learn through his confessions that he murdered his employer. The act could be perceived as spontaneous in that on the night Balram murders Ashok, he has the perfect opportunity to murder with impunity. Ashok has a bag of money in the car, and he is drunk. Balram knows that he must act now if he is ever going to change his position in life.
Yet, the idea of murder is not a spontaneous one. Balram begins to think of murder when Ashok and Pinky make him take the blame for the murder of a peasant child. Pinky's reckless driving actually caused the death. Even though Balram was not punished, he harbors resentment toward Ashok and his wife. Balram sees the world as a "dog eat dog" world. He feels his situation is desperate, that the only way to have a better life than that of his father or of the multitude of poor that inhabit the city is to use violence.
In some ways, he can be likened to Macbeth, who killed Duncan to be king. Yet, there is much more sympathy for Balram than there is for Macbeth. Avarind starkly portrays the differences between the Haves and the Have Nots. The Haves spend their days in "bubbles," isolated from the heat, pollution, filth, and hunger that those living outside the bubble are subjected to. We see the sense of entitlement that the rich have who will demand that servants pay the price for the mistakes that they themselves make. We see the corruption of the government who will bankrupt businesses with their demands for bribes. It seems that everyone takes advantage of others, if they can, and that the only way to move up in class and position is to step on others. Thus, Balram is reacting in an extreme way to what has been done to him and his people.
That being said, the murder of Ashok is shocking. Ashok was a kinder man than most, and he tried to some extent to be kind to Balram. In many ways both Ashok and Balram are victims of the sharply divided classes of people in a country and the jungle mentality, that the strongest will survive.
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