By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by John Lee
John Lee narrates Aravind Adiga’s book, “White Tiger”. Lee’s exotic voice enhances Adiga’s story of life in India. (Lee is also the narrator of the “Count of Monte Christo”.)
“White Tiger” pictures the chasm between haves and have-nots in capitalist societies. Like “Native Son”, “White Tiger” speaks about the ugly consequence of discrimination and poverty.
The story begins with a letter from an Indian servant to a Chinese dignitary that describes entrepreneurial success in India. The servant tells the story of his rise from the second lowest caste in India to successful entrepreneur. Balram, the servant, is an uneducated but acute observer of society. He is destined to be a breaker of social convention. In the course of his life story, he recounts corrupted political ideals, collapsing religion, and the breakdown of family ties. Human nature’s universal weaknesses are exposed as causes of an accelerating gap between rich and poor. An irony of the story is that Balram’s letter is about two countries that have different political philosophies (democratic versus communist) but similar societal maladies. The common thread is their drive toward capitalism. Balram considers himself a social entrepreneur. He argues that he became a successful capitalist by breaking social convention.
As the Indian servant’s story progresses, Richard Wright’s ”Bigger Thomas” and Balram metaphorically meet in a wanton murder of sociologically ignorant human beings. Bigger Thomas and Balram are one side of a capitalist’s coin, minted by poor education, poverty, and discrimination. Their capitalist reality corrupts thought and action.
“White Tiger”, like “Native Son”, is a world warning about the consequence of a chasm between rich and poor; i.e. as long as societies believe that “a rising tide lifts all boats”, discontent and hostile action of the poor will rise. Lack of prudent regulation of capitalism leads to the worst in human nature; i.e. ignoring the poor is a monumental failure of any society, whether capitalist or communist. Equality of education and opportunity are capitalism’s saving grace but that grace is not natural to man; i.e. prudent regulation of human nature is required.
“White Tiger” is a credible warning of the danger of unbridled capitalism.