Although they start off as very similar characters, what causes Pariag in The Dragon Can't Dance and Balram in The White Tiger  to choose vastly different paths in life? What are these paths?...

Although they start off as very similar characters, what causes Pariag in The Dragon Can't Dance and Balram in The White Tiger  to choose vastly different paths in life? What are these paths? Explain.

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Hello! The question of caste and position in society is prominently featured in both novels.

Both Balram and Pariag work hard to improve their own social conditions; however, the end results of both efforts differ because Balram actually commits a crime. He murders his boss, Mr. Ashok, by slitting his throat. Balram tells us that when the British left, social mayhem fostered by a hierarchical conflict effectively reduced the caste system to just two: that of 'Men With Big Bellies' and 'Men With Small Bellies.' He tells us that his India then became a world of eat or be eaten.

...the Indian entrepreneur has to be straight and crooked, mocking and believing, sly and sincere, at the same time.

Balram relates to us that his country is also divided into the India of Light and the India of Darkness, and that, come what may, he fully intends to live in the India of Light. He describes his killing of Mr. Ashok from the vantage point of a detached and cold cynicism:

...murder a man, and you feel responsible for his life- possessive, even. You know more about him than his father and mother; they knew his fetus, but you know his corpse. Only you can complete the story of his life; only you know why his body has to be pushed into the fire before its time, and why his toes curl up and fight for another hour on earth.

Balram steals 700, 000 rupees from Mr. Ashok after murdering him. He is not afraid to seize opportunities that will help him fulfill his goal of wealth and power: in this case, he appropriates part of his employer's wealth to himself. With the money, he launches his own company, the White Tiger Technology Drivers. Balram considers his crime a necessary tool, the death of Mr. Ashok, the collateral damage of his personal warfare on poverty. Pariag, as social misfit, in 'The Dragon Can't Dance,' violates the societal expectation of non-possession. His name cleverly ends with a 'g' instead of an 'h.' Pariag, an Indian, is almost a social pariah in his Creole society. He wants to cement for himself a place in Creole society. He feels sure that if people get to know who he is, they would readily accept him. He tells his wife, Dolly, that 'they is people, girl, and we is people to them, even though they is Creole, and we is Indian.' He sees everyone as equal; at the same time, he desires better economic circumstances for his family and is not ashamed of his desire to try to succeed in an honorable way.

When he buys his green bike, some of the powerful Creole on Calvary Hill Yard, like Miss Cleothilda and Guy, are incensed. The threat of Pariag's possible upward mobility is very real. Aldrick, the protagonist, sums it up pretty well:

Guy and Cleothilda trying to protect what they own. . .  you know. I know they don’t own Trinidad and Tobago, but the little they have, they frighten the Indian come and give them competition. The rest of us ain’t threatening them at all.

In the end, Pariag's bike is destroyed, and even the community hides its collective face in shame; they have shattered unwritten codes of humanity and honor. Yet, Pariag refuses to give up, eventually opening his own shop. Pariag tells his wife, Dolly, that

"We have to start to live, Dolly, you and me."

Regardless of what anyone else does in the community, Pariag comes to see that he is defined by more than the expectations and prejudices of community. So, while Balram chooses to commit (what he considers one necessary) murder to help propel him into the limelight of wealth, Pariag chooses a different path to his own self-actualization. In essence, Balram just reproduces the corrupt elements of wealthy society in himself in order to live in the India of Light, but Pariag chooses to define his own success by his honor and his convictions.

Thanks for the question.

Sources:

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