Is Balram a reliable narrator and realistic character whose assessment of India is to be taken seriously?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In many ways Balam is offered to readers of the White Tiger as a point of view from which we can see through some of the hypocrisy and prejudice of Indian society. Because he is the lens through which we see India as readers of the work, we are tempted to treat him at face value as a reliable narrator. On the other hand, there are two reasons we should be wary of so doing. First, India is a country of over one billion people, and no one story or perspective can do more than give us a narrow and limited perspective on so complex a society. Second, the White Tiger is constructed in the genre of an extended dramatic monologue, in which, typically, the main point of the work is the unreliability of the narrator to gradually unmasks his own limitations. The events of the story point to Balam being willing to lie, steal, and murder for his own advantage, and equally prone to blaming Indian society for those acts – but since most Indians are not thieves and murderers, one can see that some of Balam’s condemnation of India may be influenced by his efforts to rationalize or justify his own criminal acts. As a character, Balam is somewhat realistic -- but far from typical (murder is not an everyday act in India).