Skip to content

A reader's guide to The White Tiger

Updated Monday 1st June 2009

Follow Balram Halwai as he attempts to escape poverty and enjoy the riches of the new India. Will he succeed? And what will it cost him?

The Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, is due to visit Bangalore, where he intends to meet with Indian entrepreneurs. In a series of letters dictated over seven nights, a self-declared entrepreneur addresses the Premier.

White tiger Creative commons image Icon Frank Peters under CC-BY-NC-ND licence under Creative-Commons license
White tiger [Image: Frank Peters under CC-BY-NC-ND licence]

He wants to relate the story of his life and explain the truth about Bangalore…

Balram Halwai is born in abject poverty in Laxmangarh, a place he regards as the Darkness. Its people are in thrall to unscrupulous landlords, nicknamed the Buffalo, the Stork, the Wild Boar and the Raven.

Balram’s father is an over-worked and underpaid rickshaw-puller, so the youngster is impressed by the heady success of the bus conductor, Vijay.

For a brief time schoolboy Balram’s spirits are raised by an inspector, who compares him to a white tiger: a rare creature who comes along only once in a generation.

Sadly, reality returns and Balram is put to work in a tea shop. Here he sets about educating himself by eavesdropping when the customers chat.

He is astonished to hear that drivers command high salaries; therefore he determines to change careers. There is a captivating account of his time in Delhi, as a chauffeur to Mr Ashok and Pinky Madam.

Can the White Tiger escape from his cage? Will he safely negotiate the transition from Darkness to Light, from servant to master? Aravind Adiga’s scintillating first novel steers us through old India and new, blending humour and pathos. Was he a worthy winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize? Let us know what you think.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Nine days' wonder in York Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Robert Clopas article icon

History & The Arts 

Nine days' wonder in York

William has much admiration for the Minster - but the joy of York is to be harshly curtailed...

Article
Mike Leahy's Med diary: Part two Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

Nature & Environment 

Mike Leahy's Med diary: Part two

For Mike Leahy, it would soon be time to die...

Article
Reading the War: The People's War 100 Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

History & The Arts 

Reading the War: The People's War 100

We have a comprehensive reading list for anybody interested in the Second World War

Article
Andrew Motion: Poetry and life Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission article icon

History & The Arts 

Andrew Motion: Poetry and life

Poet Laureate and OU honorary graduate Andrew Motion spoke with Ozone about his life in the spotlight and the role poetry has to play in the modern world

Article
Faustus Inteviews: Ray Fearon, Mephistopheles Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC audio icon

History & The Arts 

Faustus Inteviews: Ray Fearon, Mephistopheles

Making the devil his own? Ray Fearon explains his approach to playing Mephistopheles.

Audio
5 mins
Living Shakespeare: Alissar Caracalla on Lebanon and A Midsummer Night’s Dream Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

History & The Arts 

Living Shakespeare: Alissar Caracalla on Lebanon and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Choreographer Alissar Caracalla reimagines A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the mountains of Lebanon.

Video
5 mins
Dr Sara Haslam on the Brontë sisters’ work Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

Dr Sara Haslam on the Brontë sisters’ work

Sara Haslam was The Open University's academic consultant on OU/BBC drama 'To Walk Invisible'. Here she discusses what makes the Brontës’ work so fantastic. 

Article

History & The Arts 

Exploring Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

This free course introduces Virginia Woolf’s last novel, Between the Acts (1941), with the aim of understanding how she writes about time, memory, and ideas about identity. It also considers why Woolf’s fiction is often considered difficult. Selected extracts from her essays on writing help to clarify some of these perceived difficulties, illuminating complex patterning and structure in this fictional account of an English village, on a day in June in 1939.

Free course
6 hrs
The Secret Life of Books: Mrs Dalloway Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

History & The Arts 

The Secret Life of Books: Mrs Dalloway

University lecturer Alexandra Harris argues Mrs Dalloway is a book about madness that Virginia Woolf wrote so that she could remain sane.

Video
5 mins