The White Tiger

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The Black Fort Symbol Analysis

The Black Fort  Symbol Icon

Looking back on his past from his luxurious office in Bangalore, Balram imagines what the detectives and police would have found out about him had they returned to his home village of Laxmangahr. He laughs to himself that the police would never discover the true clue to what differentiated him from the other villagers, what made him capable of imagining a better life: his fascination with the Black Fort.

The Black Fort was the only thing of beauty in Balram’s impoverished ancestral village. The fort is a grand old building on a hill above town, constructed by foreign occupiers years ago, which both fascinated and frightened Balram throughout his youth. He claims that his ability to appreciate its beauty marked him early on as different from his fellow villagers and showed his destiny not to remain a slave. When he returns to the village years later with his wealthy master Mr. Ashok and his mistress Pinky Madam, he finally gets the courage to visit the fort alone. From the very top, he looks down on Laxmangahr and spits—he has literally risen above the Rooster Coop, and from within this fort representing the power of former occupiers, he rejects his former life and his family that still lives that life. A short time later, he murders Ashok.

The Black Fort Quotes in The White Tiger

The The White Tiger quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Black Fort . 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 1: The First Night Quotes

“They remain slaves because they can’t see what is beautiful in this world.”

Related Symbols: The Black Fort
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

While describing the Black Fort, Balram observes that he has a unique capacity to see what is beautiful in the world. He believes that this quality sets him apart from others.

This passage shows that Balram’s model of the world divides people into two types: Certain people are “slaves” and trapped in their narrow position, while others are emancipated entrepreneurs like Balram. We might expect these differences to be based on social or economic status, but Balram sees them to be a matter of mental emancipation: more specifically, he believes it is the ability to “see what is beautiful” that allows him to think critically and creatively. Though the outcomes of this type of thinking are not yet evident, Balram will come to use this concept – aestheticism, or the ability to see beauty – as a way to categorize and make sense of his other experiences and talents. To see the Black Fort as beautiful signifies, then, not just the ability to regard something as aesthetic from a distance—but to more broadly find significance in the world. It is this earnest belief in the meaning of the world that will motivate Balram to pursue his goals.

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The Black Fort Symbol Timeline in The White Tiger

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Black Fort appears in The White Tiger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The First Night
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Morality and Indian Society Theme Icon
Balram ends this first installment of his story with a memory of the Black Fort : the only thing of beauty in his impoverished town. The fort is a grand... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Second Night
Family Theme Icon
...and their neglect of Kishan, Balram storms out of the house and climbs up to the Black Fort . (full context)