May 17th, 2012 by Lisa
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
“Only a man who is prepared to see his family destroyed – hunted, beaten and burned alive by the masters- can break out of the coop. That would take no normal human being, but a freak, a pervert of nature. It would, in fact, take a White Tiger.”
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga tells the story of the extreme measures Balram Halwai must undertake to escape the poverty trap he calls the rooster coop and become an entrepreneur. His story is told through a series of letters written to the Premier of China in an effort to tell him the truth about India.
Balram’s India is a corrupt one where schoolteachers steal children’s lunch money and bribes are commonplace. “In the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies. And only two destinies: eat – or get eaten up”
Book Club Party Ideas for The White Tiger
|A rooster coop would be another possible decoration. Rather than purchasing a rooster coop, you can hang this wall decal which I found on Amazon. Disturbing.|
Balram’s hometown is Bangalore, India. Here is sampling of southern Indian music.
Book Club Menu for The White Tiger
Balram travels from Bangalore up north to Delhi to become a driver. One of the meals Balram made for his master was Daal and Chapattis and a dish of okra (page 161). Click here for an Indian okra recipe from Indobase.com
Balram’s last name, Halwai, means “sweet-maker” which is his caste – his destiny. “Everyone in the Darkness who hears that name knows all about me all at once. That’s why Kishan (his brother) and I kept getting jobs at sweetshops wherever we went. The owner thought, Ah, they’re Halwais, making sweet and tea is in their blood.“ Some of the sweets mentioned in the book are Gulab Jamuns and laddoos. I made an easy Coconut Laddoo recipe that only has three ingredients – coconut, milk and sugar.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.67 stars (34153 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4 stars (406 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 3.82 stars (243 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4 stars. I enjoyed this novel and its interesting, but disturbing, portrayal of India. It is an easy read and flows smoothly. The White Tiger reads like a dark comedy (although at times the comedy is of the locker room variety).|
Book Club Discussion Questions for The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Below is a sampling of the discussion questions that are included in The White Tiger.
- Why does Balram choose to address the Premier? What motivates him to tell his story? What similarities does he see between himself and the Premier?
- Balram blames the culture of servitude in India for the stark contrasts between the Light and the Darkness and the antiquated mind set that slows change. Discuss his rooster coop analogy and the role of religion, the political system, and family life in perpetuating this culture. What do you make of the couplet Balram repeats to himself: “I was looking for the key for years / but the door was always open”?
- Discuss Balram’s opinion of his master and how it and their relationship evolve. Balram says “where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell” (160). Where do you think his self-interest begins?
- Discuss Balram’s reasons for the murder: fulfilling his father’s wish that his son “live like a man,” taking back what Ashok had stolen from him, and breaking out of the rooster coop, among them. Which ring true to you and which do not? Did you feel Balram was justified in killing Ashok? Discuss the paradox inherent in the fact that in order to live fully as a man, Balram took a man’s life.
- Balram’s thoughts of his family initially hold him back from killing Ashok. What changes his mind? Why do you think he goes back to retrieve Dharam at the end of the novel? Does his decision absolve him in any way?
- The novel offers a window into the rapidly changing economic situation in India. What do we learn about entrepreneurship and Balram’s definition of it?
- The novel reveals an India that is as unforgiving as it is promising. Do you think of the novel, ultimately, as a cautionary tale or a hopeful one?
- If you or your group has read other popular novels related to India, such as The Namesake, The Inheritance of Loss, or Brick Lane, discuss the characters and the similarities or differences you see in how the country is presented.
Purchase The White Tiger at your favorite bookseller
Photo by Mark Pringle
|Aravind Adiga was born in India in 1974 and attended Columbia and Oxford universities. A former correspondent for Time magazine, he has also been published in the Financial Times. He lives in Mumbai, India.The White Tiger is a New York Times Bestseller and the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize.|
Other books about India that were recommended at the end of The White Tiger include those below:
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for The White Tiger? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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