The White Tiger

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Themes and Colors
The Self-Made Man Theme Icon
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Morality and Indian Society Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The White Tiger, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Family Theme Icon

Throughout the novel, Balram describes family as a destructive and burdensome part of Indian life, one that prevents its members from pursuing individual advancement and liberty. Balram’s grandmother Kusum embodies this negative image of family in the story. She shortsightedly pulls both Balram and his brother Kishan out of school at a young age, and attempts to arrange both brothers’ marriages early in life, before they are able to support families of their own. The rich are similarly burdened by familial obligation and interference. Even Balram’s wealthy master Ashok complains of his father and brothers’ attempts to exert control over his personal life.

Balram further believes that the traditional Indian family unit keeps the Rooster Coop of social inequality alive. If a servant attempts to escape or disobeys his employer, the superior’s family will punish the servant by murdering or brutally torturing his family. In this way, familial loyalty and love become weaknesses that can stop an individual from being able to advance. The arrival of Balram’s young cousin Dharam in Dehli fits into this pattern. Just when Balram has resolved to murder his master Ashok, Kusum sends Dharam to live and work with Balram. For better or for worse, this new responsibility of caring for his relative initially prevents him from executing his plan and taking a radical step to alter his future. Ultimately, though, Balram does carry out his plan to murder Ashok, knowingly sacrificing his own family to brutal and probably fatal vengeance in the process. He cuts loose his own family in order to free himself. That the family plays this negative role in Balram’s world is a reflection of the deeply corrupt and immoral state of Indian society, which transforms even the most sacred, intimate relationships between people into tools of oppression that someone like Balram feels he must escape in order to achieve freedom and success.

Family ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Family appears in each chapter of The White Tiger. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Family Quotes in The White Tiger

Below you will find the important quotes in The White Tiger related to the theme of Family.
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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