The White Tiger

The White Tiger Chapter 5: The Fifth Night Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
To explain how and why his masters feel justified in framing him for the hit-and-run accident, Balram introduces the metaphor of the Rooster Coop. As he sees it, India’s poor are like roosters crowded together in cages, watching one another go to the slaughter yet unable or unwilling to escape the same fate. India’s wealthy few have oppressed the poor so completely that the poor do not rebel, and instead perpetuate their own oppression. Balram goes on to explain that the Indian family unit is the reason the Rooster Coop stays intact, and that it takes a White Tiger, someone willing to see his family destroyed, to escape.
The extreme inequality brought about by the Rooster Coop complicates what is considered moral and immoral behavior. Any poor person who resists their lot in life risks having his or her family murdered as a consequence. This means that resistance is immoral (as it leads to certain punishment or death of your family), and faithful service to the wealthy is the only safe and moral path. Though the certain danger to one’s family associated with resistance rules out what might usually be considered a noble course of action, this danger must be risked in order to escape a life of servitude to the cruel, wealthy elite. And Balram clearly identifies himself as one of those special people willing to make those sacrifices.
Themes
The Self-Made Man Theme Icon
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Morality and Indian Society Theme Icon
Having signed away his life in taking responsibility for killing the child, Balram sits in his room terrified and alone until the Stork, recently arrived in Delhi, summons him to the family’s apartment. Instead of discussing Balram’s future and what Balram fears will be his upcoming incarceration, the Stork asks him to massage his feet. They sit in silence until Pinky Madam enters the room and reminds them to tell Balram that he is free: through a contact in the police force, the family has discovered that no one saw the accident and charges will not be pressed.
That everyone in the Stork’s family forgot entirely to inform Balram of the good news, even though his life hung in the balance, shows their utter disregard for and inability to empathize with him (or any other servant). When they need Balram to cooperate he is “part of the family,” yet the minute his help becomes unnecessary they lose all sense for him as a human being.
Themes
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
A few days later, Pinky Madam wakes Balram early in the morning and has him drive her to the airport. She leaves Balram an envelop with money before catching a plane back to the US, leaving India forever and putting an end to her marriage. Later, Ashok becomes furious with Balram for helping Pinky escape and nearly throws Balram over a railing, but Balram knocks Ashok back by kicking him in the chest and defends himself by saying he didn’t know what Pinky intended, and Ashok’s anger soon turns into sadness. Over the following days and weeks, Balram begins to care for Ashok, cooking for his master and comforting him. Any anger Balram himself felt towards Ashok for attempting to blame the hit-and-run accident on him is overtaken by pity.
Pinky’s decision to leave India and her marriage is never explicitly explained, though she has always yearned to return to the US and her hit-and-run killing of the child may have pushed her to finally make that decision. The physical fight between Ashok and Balram is interesting, as it seems more a battle between equals than master and servant, though the immediate rush of sympathy Balram subsequently feels for Ashok in his time of need, despite Ashok’s demonstrated disregard for Balram’s own welfare, shows yet again how deeply the servant’s mentality is ingrained in Balram.
Themes
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
The Mongoose arrives in Delhi to help Ashok through his separation from Pinky, and also bearing a letter to Balram from Kusum Granny. Ashok and the Mongoose read aloud the letter, in which Kusum urges Balram to marry and subtly blackmails him to send money to his family, which he has neglected to do for months. Balram feels tempted by the short-term comforts of marriage, but knows he will never attain a higher social position or better life for himself if he allows himself to be saddled with the responsibilities of caring for a family.
Kusum’s letter shows how destructive ideas about familial obligation in poor, rural Indian families help keep the Rooster Coop system in place. Though he is still young, Balram sees that Kusum’s wish for him to marry is self-serving; his marriage would provide the family with short-term financial security in the form of a dowry, but –because of its premature timing—would mean a life of poverty for himself and his future children.
Themes
Social Breakdown, Self-Interest, and Corruption Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
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