Saturday, February 28, 2009

The White Tiger

I just finished reading the book The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I was only exposed to because I recently joined a book club (I haven't attended the first meeting yet, more on that when I have), and that was the title for this month's meeting. All the better for me, since I probably never would have picked up this book while browsing the shelves of my favorite bookstore (note to self: I need to find a favorite bookstore in this area).

It was very interesting to see the movie Slumdog Millionaire while reading this book, since they both take place in India, and deal with extreme poverty. The White Tiger, however, handles the extreme poverty a little bit differently. As you may or may not have read earlier, I thought in many ways, poverty in Slumdog was romanticized. Two brothers, struggling against all odds, often triumphing, getting money from American tourists and engaging in humorous tricks to earn extra money. The White Tiger, also told from the point of view of a man living in poverty, does not romanticize the extreme poverty in India whatsoever.

As a boy, the protagonist was his father's only hope of a family member actually completing school, and getting a decent job; thus ending the cycle of poverty for the family. However, when the father dies from tuberculosis, the young protagonist, like his older brother, must drop out of school and start working in teashop. Eventually, the young boy decided to become a driver, because this will bring in more money for the family then working in the teashop.

The book provides an interesting look (at least, I assume it is an interesting and honest look, I suppose I am no expert) at the cycle of poverty in India. The servants, though they make money, hardly make an outstanding amount of money, and what money they do make must be sent home to their families. In turn, the families spend the largest part of the money renting the land they use to farm from the wealthy landowners, so it is still never saved. In the end, it is almost impossible to rise above the cycle of poverty you are born into.

The protagonist, in this story, is one of the few that manages to rise above the poverty and become one of the wealthy. The only way he is able to accomplish this is by murdering his master. Trust me, I'm not giving anything away. This is something the protagonist lets you know from the very beginning. The book left me, well, questioning how I felt about this protagonist. He was uneducated, subject to extreme poverty, and in many ways, a sympathetic character. However, there were things about him throughout the entire novel that detracted from this sympathy.

In terms of style, the book was written in a unique fashion. The book was a series of letters written by the protagonist, to the Premier of China, who was making a trip to India to see what motivates men to become entrepreneurs in such a corrupt, impoverished nation.

While this may never make a list of my top ten reads, I would certainly recommend it to others. It is interesting, and insightful. Even if it doesn't expose the true India, it certainly captures some honest aspects of human nature, some more attractive than others.

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