The White Tiger

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Free Press edition of The White Tiger published in 2008.
Chapter 1: The First Night Quotes

“The story of my upbringing is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced. But pay attention, Mr. Premier! Fully formed fellows, after twelve years of school and three years of university, wear nice suits, join companies, and take orders from other men for he rest of their lives. Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 8-9
Explanation and Analysis:

As Balram begins to recount his personal narrative, he notes that he did not receive a formal education. He defends this experience by pointing out that it actually served him advantageously.

This passage marks the… (192 more words in this explanation)

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“You, young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals—the creature that comes along only once in a generation?”
“The white tiger.”
“That’s what you are, in this jungle.”

Related Characters: The Inspector (speaker), Balram Halwai
Related Symbols: The White Tiger
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

While describing his flawed education, Balram recounts a pivotal moment in which he is promised a scholarship. His teacher called him a "white tiger," an image that he will adopt throughout the novel.

The white… (223 more words in this explanation)

“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… (162 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 2: The Second Night Quotes

“Many of my best ideas are, in fact, borrowed from my ex-employer or his brother or someone else whom I was driving about. (I confess, Mr. Premier: I am not an original thinker—but I am an original listener.)

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

After describing his murder of Ashok at the end of the previous chapter, Balram begins this chapter by stating that he still feels a sense of fondness to his ex-employer. He also explains that many… (226 more words in this explanation)

“Stories of rottenness and corruption are always the best stories, aren’t they?”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 41
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram recounts bringing his father to a hospital across the river from Laxmangahr at which there are no doctors. When a patient explains that the lack stems from the hospital’s corruption, Balram observes the way… (231 more words in this explanation)

“That’s the one good thing I’ll say for myself. I’ve always been a big believer in education—especially my own.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram begins working for a teashop in Dhanbad and recalls his earlier work at a similar locale in Laxmanghar. He would rarely pay attention to his tasks but rather focus on listening to the conversations—a… (186 more words in this explanation)

“See, this country, in its days of greatness, when it was the richest nation on earth, was like a zoo... the day the British left—the cages had been let open; and the animals had attacked and ripped each other apart and jungle law replaced zoo law.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

When Balram petitions a driving instructor for lessons, his request is received with skepticism due to his low social caste. This event moves him to describe the shifting social structures in India before and after… (212 more words in this explanation)

“To sum up—in the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies. And only two destinies: eat—or get eaten up.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram continues to describe the changing caste system before and after British rule. He specifies that it has become far simpler: split into a binary division between the ambitious and unambitious instead of a multi-faceted… (179 more words in this explanation)

“I absorbed everything—that’s the amazing thing about entrepreneurs. We are like sponges—we absorb and grow.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

Now a driver for the Stork’s family, Balram often finds himself in situations in which he can eavesdrop on political discussions. For instance while massaging the Stork, Balram observes that he can assimilate information and… (214 more words in this explanation)

“The Devil, according to the Muslims, was once God’s sidekick, until he fought with Him and went freelance.”

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Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Furious with his family, Balram spits on Laxmangahr to renounce his upbringing and place in the world. He connects the action to the way that the Devil rejected God.

By likening himself to the Devil… (210 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 4: The Fourth Night Quotes

“We’re driving past Ghandi, after just having given a bribe to a minister. It’s a fucking joke, isn’t it.”

Related Characters: Mr. Ashok (speaker), Pinky Madam
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

Ashok makes this comment after a day of being chauffeured by Balram around Delhi. He is horrified of the irony of passing a famous Ghandi statue after a day spent buying off officials.

This line… (247 more words in this explanation)

“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… (196 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 5: The Fifth Night Quotes

“The greatest thing to come out of this country... is the Rooster Coop. The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers...They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with human beings in this country.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Rooster Coop
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram explains why he was blamed for his master’s crime by introducing the image of the Rooster Coop. He uses this metaphor repeatedly throughout the novel to describe the way that lower classes are trapped… (168 more words in this explanation)

“... But where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell: no servant can ever tell what the motives of his heart are... We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok
Related Symbols: The Rooster Coop
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

While caring for Ashok in the wake of Pinky Madam’s departure, Balram finds himself growing fond of his master. But he also questions his own motives for such feelings, noting that the social structure prevents… (206 more words in this explanation)

“The Rooster Coop was doing its work. Servants have to keep other servants from becoming innovators, experimenters, or entrepreneurs. Yes, that’s the sad truth, Mr. Premier. The coop is guarded from the inside.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Wen Jiabao, Vitiligo-Lips
Related Symbols: The Rooster Coop
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

Kusum Granny sends Balram a letter encouraging him to marry. While he is tempted, Balram eventually decides this choice will entrap him: He sees his family as a set of obstacles that are part of… (199 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 6: The Sixth Morning Quotes

“The rest of today’s narrative will deal mainly with the sorrowful tale of how I was corrupted from a sweet, innocent village fool into a citified fellow full of debauchery, depravity and wickedness, All these changes happened in me because they happened first in Mr. Ashok.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning of Chapter 6, Balram prepares the reader for the direction of the story to come. He explains that he followed and mimicked Ashok’s newly perverted behaviors.

This passage marks a decisive shift… (196 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 7: The Sixth Night Quotes

“The city knew my secret... Even the road—the smooth, polished road of Delhi that is the finest in all of India—knew my secret.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

Having begun to fantasize about stealing the red bag of money, Balram becomes increasingly paranoid. He thinks that others on the street know of his intentions.

This passage shows how Balram has begun to think… (110 more words in this explanation)

“You were looking for the key for years/ But the door was always open!”

Related Characters: Muslim Bookseller (speaker), Balram Halwai
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram wanders through Delhi with the bribe money from Ashok. While doing so, he hears these lines from a poem spoken by a Muslim bookseller.

These unexpected phrases help provide Balram with the confidence he… (180 more words in this explanation)

“Let animals live like animals; let humans live like humans. That’s my whole philosophy in a sentence.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:

While at the zoo, Balram returns to contemplate his metaphorical connection between humans and animals. Here he revises his earlier beliefs and pronounces his essential worldview.

Whereas before Balram would constantly equate humans and animals… (175 more words in this explanation)

“We went from bank to bank, and the weight of the red bag grew. I felt its pressure increase on my lower back—as if I were taking Mr. Ashok and his bag not in a car, but the way my father would take a customer and his bag—in a rickshaw.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok, Vikram Halwai
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

Ashok prepares for an enormous bribe, so Balram must shuttle him over Delhi withdrawing money.

This passage is a characteristic example of how Balram’s imaginative thinking takes a metaphorical idea and renders it literal. Of… (161 more words in this explanation)

Chapter 8: The Seventh Night Quotes

“Now, despite my amazing success story, I don’t want to lose contact with the place where I got my real education in life. The road and the pavement.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 259
Explanation and Analysis:

After murdering Ashok and absconding with the bribe money, Balram moves to Bangalore and uses the money to become a successful business entrepreneur. But he reminds the reader that he stays connected to average people… (260 more words in this explanation)

The city has its share of thugs and politicians. It’s just that here, if a man wants to be good, he can be good. In Laxmangarh, he doesn’t even have this choice. This is the difference between this India and that India; the choice.”

Related Characters: Muslim Bookseller (speaker), Balram Halwai
Page Number: 262
Explanation and Analysis:

After one of his drivers kills a young boy, Balram visits the family to offer his condolences and financial compensation. He extrapolates this moment to offer a broader comment on different sub-societies in India.

The… (195 more words in this explanation)

“There is no end to things in India, Mr. Jiabao, as Mr. Ashok so correctly used to say. You’ll have to keep paying and paying the fuckers. But I complain about the police the way the rich complain; not the way the poor complain.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Mr. Ashok, Wen Jiabao
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram continues to explore the murky ethics of his new profession. He explains that he remains entrapped in the socially corrupt system despite his success.

Lest the reader believe that Balram’s entrepreneurial exploits have allowed… (164 more words in this explanation)

“Yet...even if they throw me in jail...Ill say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hours, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant. I think I am ready to have children, Mr. Premier.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker), Wen Jiabao
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel comes to a close, Balram considers the fact that he may be caught for his murder. He continues to defend his choice, observing that even if he were punished, his moment of… (224 more words in this explanation)

“People in this country are still waiting for the war of their freedom to come from somewhere else...That will never happen. Every man must make his own Benaras. The book of your revolution sits in the pit of your belly, young Indian. Crap it out, and read.”

Related Characters: Balram Halwai (speaker)
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

Balram’s final statements return to a broad condemnation of Indian society. He challenges others to be less passive and to recognize that they are capable of revolutionary activity if they simply take an active stand.

(221 more words in this explanation)

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