Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is a novel about social mobility in a global economy from the perspective of Balram, a citizen from a poverty-stricken village in India, who becomes successful at the expense of his moral identity. The following questions guide student discussions about this novel.
- Describe the narrative structure of this novel. Why do you think the author chooses this approach?
- Describe the setting of Balram's childhood. What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing up in this setting? How does the setting of your childhood impact your opportunities?
- What adjectives would you use to describe Balram and his family? What does the nickname 'white tiger' reveal about Balram?
- How does poverty and family obligation impact Balram's education? What are some ways your family supports your education? What are some challenges some students in the United States face that negatively impact their education? How are these challenges similar and different to the challenges Balram faces?
- In lieu of formal education, how does Balram learn about business? Do you think it is more important to be a good listener or a good speaker? Justify your answer. What can you learn from Balram?
- Why does Balram decide to become a chauffeur? What are some short-term and long-term advantages of taking this position? What is Balram's definition of success? How does it compare with your definition of success?
- How does Balram's upward mobility impact his relationship with his family? What are some early signs that Balram is changing? What are some things Balram loses as he gains financial success? How would you balance work and family responsibilities if you were Balram?
- Describe Balram's relationship with Ashok, Pinky Madam, and Mongoose. How does Balram convince them to take him to New Delhi when they move? Do you think this is a good decision? Why?
- Why do you think Balram agrees to go to jail in Pinky Madam's place? Would you have done this? Explain your answer. What are the consequences of this decision? How does Ashok and Balram's relationship change after Pinky Madam leaves?
- When Balram began working for Ashok, he hoped to escape poverty and servitude. Why is he unable to achieve this goal? How do you think his life would be different if he stayed in Laxmangarh?
- Why does Balram conclude that he will have to commit murder to escape? What are his other options? Do you believe that freedom is what motivates this plan or do you think it is something else? Explain your answer.
- What has Balram learned about corruption from Ashok? How does Balram use this information? What is the relationship between power and corruption? What do you think the author's attitude is towards criminal justice and social class? How do you know?
- Why did Balram write the letter to Wen Jiabao? What regrets, if any, do you think Balram has about his life? What reprisals do you think Balram will face for making this confession? Justify your response.
- What do you think of the end of the book? Were you surprised? Why? How might you have written the ending differently?
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