Aravind Adiga’s prize-winning novel The White Tiger opens with a letter by the protagonist to the premier of China. What are some of the ways in which this narrative strategy is effective?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Aravind Adiga’s prize-winning novel The White Tiger opens with a letter by the protagonist to the premier of China. The premier is planning a visit to the protagonist’s residence of Bangalore, India. While there, the premier hopes to meet with some Indian entrepreneurs so that he can help promote the development of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in China.  The protagonist’s letter to the premier is effective in a number of ways, including the following:

  • It immediately helps establish the character of the protagonist, allowing him to use his own words in ways that makes him seem a distinctive, intriguing individual. He seems brash, self-confident, and not intimidated by status, ranks, or titles. He addresses the premier with immense familiarity, using highly colloquial language.
  • It helps establish the background of the protagonist. He quickly announces that he has had little formal education, yet he doesn’t seem embarrassed by that fact. In this as in all other matters, he seems cocky and self-assured. He emerges, within a few sentences, as a character who provokes our curiosity and interest.
  • It shows that although the protagonists is aware of the limitations of his education, he is nonetheless highly articulate.
  • The protagonist keeps alluding to an English phrase he plans to use, but he carefully postpones the appearance of that phrase, thus creating interest and building suspense.
  • By addressing the Chinese premiere, the protagonist already indicates that an important theme of the novel will be the rise of both China and India as important players and competitors on the world stage. As the protagonist puts it,

Out of respect for the love of liberty shown by the Chinese people, and also in the belief that the future of the world lies with the yellow man and the brown man now that our erstwhile master, the white-skinned man, has wasted himself through buggery, cell phone usage, and drug abuse, I offer to tell you, free of charge, the truth about Bangalore.

  • By addressing the Chinese premiere, the protagonist has an excuse to allude satirically to contemporary conditions in India, which he describes in highly unattractive terms. This effect is relevant since describing contemporary India – especially relations between different classes and castes – is one of the main purposes of the novel.