The White Tiger

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Vikram Halwai Character Analysis

Balram’s father is a poor, illiterate rickshaw driver who dies of tuberculosis early in the novel. During his life, he fights to the best of his ability to fulfill his wife’s wish that Balram be given an opportunity to finish his education and move up in the world. Balram traces his struggle for upward mobility to a wish his father once expressed: that although he himself spent his life being treated “like a donkey,” he wants one of his sons to be able to live like a man.

Vikram Halwai Quotes in The White Tiger

The The White Tiger quotes below are all either spoken by Vikram Halwai or refer to Vikram Halwai. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Self-Made Man Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Free Press edition of The White Tiger published in 2008.
Chapter 4: The Fourth Night Quotes

“We were like two separate cities—inside and outside the dark egg. I knew I was in the right city. But my father, if he were alive, would be sitting on that pavement... So I was in some way out of the car too, even while I was driving it.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Vikram Halwai
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram describes the experiences of driving Ashkok around Delhi and observing those outside of the car. He notes that he has more power than those on the street but also that his actual social position is hardly any better.

To explain how separate his existence is from those on the street, Balram uses the image of two cities. This metaphor implies that there are two overlapping cities in the same physical space—thus pointing to how varied of an experience two populations can have in it. The “dark egg” of the car divides the two, presenting Ashok and Balram’s city as womb-like and protected, while that of the street represents a far harsher reality. This image emphasizes, then, the scale of the social divide in Delhi, in particular as it pertains to who has access to transportation.

At the same time, the comment is deeply personal: Balram notes that his place is not fully in the car and that he metaphorically straddles the two cities. In particular, the reference to his father shows the continued effect that family heritage has on his psyche: Though he has previously renounced his family, Balram evidently believes that their place outside the dark egg causes him to be “in some way out of the car too.” Balram is thus tasked tasked with navigating these two simultaneous cities—a burden that will also serve as an entrepreneurial opportunity.


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Chapter 7: The Sixth Night Quotes

“We went from bank to bank, and the weight of the red bag grew. I felt its pressure increase on my lower back—as if I were taking Mr. Ashok and his bag not in a car, but the way my father would take a customer and his bag—in a rickshaw.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok, Vikram Halwai
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

Ashok prepares for an enormous bribe, so Balram must shuttle him over Delhi withdrawing money.

This passage is a characteristic example of how Balram’s imaginative thinking takes a metaphorical idea and renders it literal. Of course, the physical weight of the bag is not actually sufficient to weigh him down, but Balram feels that it is symbolically doing so. That he feels a “pressure increase” speaks to a double moral burden: one Balram feels for supporting Ashok in the first place and one for the murder he is planning to imminently commit.

And, intriguingly, this burden causes Balram to think back on his father’s parallel experience as a rickshaw driver. The memory links Balram to his familial past, as it is true that just as his father once drove people around, he is doing the same thing now. This is a reminder that he is still just as caught in the Rooster Coop as his father ever was, that he is still just as trapped in that inferior social position, and it therefore serves as a final spur to make him determined to commit the murder that will allow him to escape the Rooster Coop.

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Vikram Halwai Character Timeline in The White Tiger

The timeline below shows where the character Vikram Halwai appears in The White Tiger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The First Night
The Self-Made Man Theme Icon
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Morality and Indian Society Theme Icon
Balram’s father Vikram Halwai scrapes together a living as a rickshaw driver. His one ambition is to see his... (full context)