Balram’s natural intelligence and integrity set him apart from his peers from an early age. On one occasion, his academic prowess so impresses a visiting school inspector that the official calls him a “White Tiger”: the most noble and intelligent animal in the jungle. Throughout his life, Balram’s concept of himself as a White Tiger and as an exceptional person motivates him to advocate for himself and fight for his own advancement. His conviction that he is somehow special also causes him to feel exempt from traditional moral and legal standards, empowered to live life on his own terms.
The morning before he murders his master Ashok, Balram encounters a white tiger in the Delhi zoo. After locking eyes with the animal and fainting on the spot, he decides to commit the murder and dictates a letter to his grandmother Kusum apologizing in advance, and explaining that he cannot live in a cage any longer. Balram’s identification with his namesake emboldens him and convinces him that he is justified in moving forward with his plan.