In The White Tiger, how does the author use each setting -- the village, Dhanbad, Delhi, and Bangalore -- to develop character and theme?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A major part of The White Tiger is Adiga's exploration of what defines modern India.  The contours of this configuration is complex.  This is reflected in the settings employed throughout the novel. The village of Laxmangarh is a traditional Indian village.  It represents much of the traditional India.  There is antiquity and a world untouched by the modern progress that has enveloped much of the world's understanding of India. At the same time, the name of the village represents Lakshmana from the Lord Rama avatar.  Lakshmana understands his role to Lord Rama similar to that of a servant, or one who is fully committed to the act of serving. Yet, Balram does not embrace this, seeing himself as a "half- baked servant."  Such a gap between the theoretical underpinnings reflects how the ideals of India and her reality are divergent, a theme that is enhanced through the novel.  

Lakshmana never asks for compensation for his service to Lord Rama.  Yet, Balram seeks compensation and the hopes of riches and profit.  This drive for materialism, something so foreign to some of the roots of Indian culture, motivates Balram's move to Dhanbad, an industrial center that attracts individuals for profit and some level of material gain.  This is another setting that ties into the novel's definition of India.  The world of material profit and the accumulation of wealth becomes of critical importance to Balram, helping to reflect the setting of Dhanbad.  

From this, the setting of Delhi serves to highlight where the mass of political power and political corruption lies.  Adiga is able to use this setting to once again explore the gap between India's political ideal and its reality.  The facilitation of bribes and the use of political intimidation is done under the billboards that extol virtues of Gandhi.  The money that passes through so many people's hands have Gandhi's image pressed on it. Once again, this setting helps to reflect how disparity between the theory of India and it reality.

Cast against this collision of past and present is the world of Bangalore.  In this realm, Balram is able to escape into a world where freedom and innovation is evident.  Balram's entry into Bangalore represents a domain where individuals can use their own autonomy to help define and chart a vision of Indian identity that is fueled by globalization.  This setting helps to reflect how the future of India is fluid, far from settled in a globalized context that is continually changing.  In each setting, some aspect of the definition of "India" is revealed.  The overall theme of India's complexity and intricacy is enhanced by the changing settings, reflective of a multi- layered notion of Indian identity.

rani16 | Student


In addition to the exceptionally wonderful answer by respected Akannan, I provide my humble response. The White Tiger, written by Arvind Adiga, is a tenebrous brutal critique on the inequalities in the Indian society. This realistic novel, underlines the intricacies and obscurity beneth the national progress, the abhorrent ctuelties in India, the social conflict between caste and class, thralldom, economic disparity, murder, corruption, prostitution and filth. It portrays the noisome destiny and the dark mien of india.

This unparalleled epistolary novel prefaces through Balram Halwai's eyes. Laxmangarh is named after Laxman, Lord Rama's most devoted brother, who is an epitome of rich compassion, faith and piety. Ironically, the village is a quintessence of abject poverty, plagued by indigence, servitude, illiteracy, debt, corruption, bribery, caste-system, class conflicts and widespread extortion by the zamindars. Laxmangarh is a barbarous reality of today's India.

Delhi gives us a harsher reality of life in the novel. Behind the exclusive rear-view mirror of the Honda-City, and deluged under the clinquant street-lights, Balram behold the truth of city life, that reuces a poor man to a rooster-coup syndrome. The rich relishes a life of grandeur, while the poor are cramped in filthy dormitories infersted by mosquitoes, and feed on left-overs, garnished with malice. Adiga, brilliantly depicts the tainted judicial and law system, & the electoral system, who misuse their power at the expense of the innocent public.

Finally, Balram awakens to an epiphany. He realizes that he became a driver due to poverty, but his class bothered him & he wanted to be free. He felt that he cannot prosper, without being corrupted himself. Thus, he commits a murder, robs money and estalblishes his new company-The White Tiger's Taxi association at Bangalore. Bangalore is thus this vent to freedom, fame and success. It is his camelot, that transforms him into the "true" White Tiger-an animal with an exceptional, disarming intelligence!

Snag | Student

Balram Halwai, the taxi driver-protagonist of Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger has attained the status of a memorable tragic anti-hero, in that he became the voice of the thousands of cab drivers in both Bangalore and Delhi (who had come into some disrepute around the time of the novel's release), struggling that they were to ply for over 18-20 hours each day, barely managing to catch a couple of hours of sleep before the next day's shift.

This novel served to not only throw light on the exploitative aspect of human nature that informs the class divide that Adiga tries to address in the novel. By positioning Balram Halwai on the other side of the thriving cosmopolitan lifestyles of the rich in the cities, Adiga was able to utilize Halwai's cynical yet self-deprecating voice to great effect. This ploy works on many levels but primarily attempts to humanize a maligned faction of society (the drivers who come from the villages to work for cab owners in the cities) as well as vociferously comment on perhaps the much-needed economic reform in India.

Further, the epistolary form of the novel also makes it more plausible for the reader, given how the novel ends. It makes it easier to empathize with Balram because we get great access into his mind. And that he addresses his letters to a foreign dignitary also serves to remind the reader that Balram has lost the little faith he has in the system of his own country.