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 Quotes in The White Tiger
“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.”