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Balram, the main character, or protagonist, in Aravind Adiga's novel The White Tiger, is a corrupted individual, having witnessed first-hand the arrogance, dishonesty, hypocrisy, and brutality of the rigid caste system into which he was born. Adiga's novel adopts something of an epistolary style, Balram's story being told through a series of letters he writes to the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, whose own country has experienced remarkable economic transformations with the addition of a massive, newly established middle class, above which sits an economic and social elite that is increasingly removed from the lower rungs of society. Premier Wen, Balram's early letter notes, is coming to India to witness for himself the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of Bangalore, the city in which Balram has taken refuge and where he himself has eagerly applied that spirit. Bangalore's growth, and the resultant exacerbation of its underlying divisions, provides Adiga an opportunity to inform the reader about the advantages and disadvantages inherent in such a business-friendly climate. In so doing, the author, through his protagonist, illuminates the crucial distinctions between the autocratic system of China and the democratic, if highly flawed, political system that India inherited from its former British colonial masters. It is also, however, an opportunity to illuminate the distinctions that remained inside India itself. Late in the novel, Balram writes to the Chinese premier regarding the latter's planned visit to Bangalore:
"Understand, Mr. Jiabao, it is not as if you come to Bangalore and find that everyone is moral and upright here. This city has its share of thugs and politicians. It's just that here, if a man wants to be good, he can be good. In Laxmangarh, he doesn't even have this choice. That is the difference between this India and that India: the choice."
It is in Bangalore where Balram, using the money he stole from his former employer, whom he has murdered, is able to express himself through the economic freedom and spirit of entrepreneurship that has subsumed this city. In another telling passage late in the novel, Balram describes his free-wheeling temperament and excitement at the prospect of continuing to exploit Bangalore's business-friendly environment:
"I love my start-up—this chandelier, and this silver laptop, and these twenty-six Toyota Qualises—but honestly, I'll get bored of it sooner or later. I'm a first-gear man, Mr. Premier. In the end, I'll have to sell this start-up to some other moron—entrepreneur, I mean—and head into a new line. I'm thinking of real estate next. You see, I'm always a man who sees "tomorrow" when others see "today." The whole world will come to Bangalore tomorrow."
Bangalore, for Balram, is the center of the universe, and his zeal in exploiting the economic opportunities the city offers is gradually revealed as embodying the seedier underside of capitalism unrestrained by any notion of moral parameters:
"After three or four years in real estate, I think I might sell everything, take the money, and start a school—an English-language school—for poor children in Bangalore. A school where you won't be allowed to corrupt anyone's head with prayers and stories about God or Gandhi—nothing but the facts of life for these kids. A school full of White Tigers, unleashed on Bangalore!"
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