The White Tiger

The White Tiger Summary and Analysis of Chapter 4: The Fourth Night


Balram returns to a more detailed description of his chandelier and its virtues. As it turns out, he owns several chandeliers: the aforementioned fixture in his office, as well as two which are in his home, one in the drawing room and one in the bathroom. He purchased all the chandeliers at once, from a boy who was selling them in a village. Balram expresses his enthusiasm for the chandeliers, and adds that their light scares lizards away. He revels in the irony of being a man in hiding who bathes himself in light, rather than crouching in darkness. He also believes that if you have forgotten something, you can remember it by staring at a chandelier.

Balram next describes Delhi. As India’s capital, the city is often trumpeted as the nation’s pride and glory. However, the real Delhi is a “crazy city” (98). Rich people live in large housing colonies, which are impossible to navigate because the numbering systems follow no orderly system. Nobody knows the names of the roads, which are arranged in circuitous patterns. Many people from the Darkness simply live on the roadsides. Because he was unable to navigate the city at first, Balram had to weather Pinky Madam's incessant insults.

He tells of one day when he was driving the Mongoose and Ashok around the city while they discussed the negotiations between the Great Socialist and the Stork. The Stork was attempting to distance himself from the Great Socialist, but the Socialist was countering by demanding exorbitant sums of money as an “income tax charge” (101). They also discussed how Ashok had decided to remain in India, and had told his wife of the decision. He hoped she would enjoy living in Gurgaon, Delhi's most American section, filled with shopping malls and American corporations.

Like Pinky Madam did, the Mongoose insulted Balram for his driving skills, but Mr. Ashok defended him. Switching to English, the Mongoose seemed to suggest that they fire Balram and hire a new driver local to Delhi, but Mr. Ashok refused, insisting that he trusted Balram.

Balram explains that drivers were not allowed in the malls, so they would congregate together outside the complexes while their masters shopped. One day, while Pinky Madam and Mr. Ashok shopped, another driver began to talk to Balram, calling him “Country-Mouse” (102). Balram refers to this man as Vitiligo-Lips, since his lips suffered from vitiligo, a common disease amongst India's poor. It causes one’s skin color to change from brown to pink, and gave Vitiligo-Lips a grotesque, clown-like appearance.

The other driver gave Balram advice about surviving in Delhi. He described the corruption amongst the police, and the hard-partying lifestyles that most masters live, thereby making life difficult for servants. He also explained that servants like to read magazines like Murder Weekly, an inexpensive and sensational rag that tells stories of violence and brutality against women. Balram explains to the Premier, however, that the stories are actually moralistic - the murderers are always deranged figures who are either eventually captured by honest police officers, or punished by the families of their victims or by their own suicides. In other words, the stories subtly enforce discipline amongst servants, rather than resentment.

During the conversation with Vitiligo-Lips, Balram played the part of a highly loyal servant, refusing to disclose information about his master. When Vitiligo-Lips offered to procure illicit good - like foreign wine of prostitutes - for Balram's master, Balram insisted that Mr. Ashok was a good and moral man. Balram also asked Vitiligo-Lips several questions about city life, learning thereby about the call centers where women work late hours and make large sums of money.

After Pinky Madam and Mr. Ashok left the mall, Balram drove them to their new home in a grandiose apartment building called Buckingham Towers B Block. He did not enjoy their new apartment, which was on the thirteenth floor, nearly as much as he did the spacious mansion in Dhanbad. Because the Stork did not allow them to take Cuddles and Puddles to Delhi, Mr. Ashok had hung a large framed portrait of them above the couch.

In the new building, Balram lived in the servant’s quarters in the basement, along with all the other servants. From their lodging, a large room which they all shared together, the servants could hear an electric bell which rang when a master needed his servant.

The other servants relentlessly teased Balram, mocking his country naiveté and even his uniform, which he considered a point of pride. Eventually, Balram moved into an unpleasant empty room on the other side of the quarters. Though the room crawled with swarms of cockroaches at night, he valued the privacy it afforded, and hid inside a mosquito net to shield himself from the roaches.

Every morning, Balram meticulously cleaned the car, and then waited until his services were needed. One morning, he drove the Mongoose and Ashok to the Congress Party headquarters. Because Delhi's air is highly polluted, Balram enjoyed being separated from it in the car, which he compares to a dark egg.

Next, he drove the brothers to the President’s House. While waiting for hours in the car, Balram grew both impressed by and intimidated with the formality of his surroundings. When the two men eventually returned, Ashok was in a sullen mood. On their way home, when they passed a statue of Ghandi, Ashok lamented the irony of passing the symbol of unity after having just bribed a government official.

The party got caught in a traffic jam, not uncommon for Delhi. While Ashok complained about the poor road planning, Balram noticed the masses of malnourished, grimy people from the Darkness, who huddled on the streets at the edge of the traffic. He vividly perceived the coexistence of two different Delhis, “inside and outside the dark egg” (116). Though he was inside the car, he related deeply to those on the outside, and thought of himself as living in both cities at once.

When they got home, the Mongoose discovered that he has lost a rupee, a trivial sum of money. He cruelly forced Balram to crawl through the car looking for it, until Balram finally dropped one of his own rupees and pretended to discover it.

Later that evening, Balram prepared a solitary dinner for a clearly upset and emotional Ashok.

The next morning, Ashok informed Balram that the Mongoose was leaving the city by train. As he was generally only privy to snatches of conversation, Balram was unsure why the Mongoose was leaving alone. On their way to the station, the Mongoose expressed his distrust of Balram, and warned him to follow the rules. Mr. Ashok again defended the driver's trustworthiness. It was at this moment that Balram realized that Ashok was weak, helpless, and absent-minded. He smiled to think that his new and sole master lacked the qualities that made a successful landlord.

With the Mongoose gone, Pinky Madam began to wear extremely revealing clothing. This distracted Balram, who found himself attracted to her despite the fact that he should see her as a mother-figure. To avoid getting erections while driving, Balram would avert his eyes from the rear view mirror.

One night, after getting paid, Balram bought and drank a cheap bottle of whiskey. Hungover the next day, he disgusted Pinky Madam, who saw him scratching his groin with his left hand while making her tea with his right. She harshly criticized him for his slovenly appearance, paan-stained teeth, and crude country mannerisms. The next day, she and Ashok, who had been fighting, mocked Balram for his inability to pronounce the word “mall” (124).

While Pinky Madam and Ashok shopped, Balram and the other chauffeurs watched a poor man try to enter the shopping mall. The guards refused him entry because he was wearing sandals, a mark of his low class. The man grew angry, crying “Am I not a human being too?” (125).

Balram explains that though the hours of waiting could lead to boredom, he capitalized on this free time as an opportunity to think. That day, he developed a plan. He had noticed that Mr. Ashok wore a mostly-plain t-shirt with a small design in its center. That night, he bought a similar shirt at a local market, as well as some black shoes and toothpaste. He had decided to stop chewing paan, ostensibly because of Pinky Madam's insults, and also to stop compulsively scratching his groin.

The next morning, while his masters shopped, Balram changed into his new t-shirt and shoes, and entered the mall by the back entrance. Despite his nervousness, the disguise was effective, and he walked around the mall a while before returning to the car and changing back into his uniform.

Delhi's traffic jams continued to get worse. One day, Pinky Madam threw a tantrum, accusing Ashok of having lied to her by claiming they would leave India after three months. Balram could tell that their marriage was having trouble, but he insists to the Premier that Ashok was a good husband who only wanted to make his wife happy.

On Pinky Madam’s birthday, Ashok ordered Balram to dress in a maharaja costume and serve them pizza. They mocked Balram for his inability to pronounce the word “pizza,” although Balram notes that Pinky Madam mispronounced it as well (131).

That evening, Balram drove them into the city, and waited for them outside in the freezing cold. The other drivers stayed warm by burning cellophane bags in a makeshift bonfire, but Balram knew he would be tempted to chew paan if he congregated with them. After Balram declined Vitiligo-Lips's invitation to join them, the other drivers mocked Balram for being a snob and for wearing the maharaja costume. Alone and resentful, he wandered to a construction site, where a wealthy man, apparently not realizing Balram was a servant due to his maharaja tunic, engaged him in conversation about the future of Delhi. The two men both noted how quickly Delhi was being overbuilt.

When Balram's employers returned to the car, they were drunk and giddy. On the way home, Pinky Madam demanded to drive the car, but Ashok protested. When a child approached the car selling a large statue of Buddha, Balram looked closely at it, and Pinky Madam mockingly called him a connoisseur of fine art. She then demanded Balram get out of the car, insisting he must spend the night out on the road with the Buddha.

Balram defends Mr. Ashok to the Premier, insisting that the man would not have stood for such cruelty if he had not been so drunk. Nevertheless, Pinky Madam drove the car away, leaving Balram alone. Soon enough, she made a U-turn and came back for him.

However, she kept driving, speeding recklessly, until she ran over a child in the road, presumably killing him or her. Balram quickly retook the driver's seat and brought the shocked couple back to their building. After leaving them upstairs, he scrubbed the car thoroughly, removing all traces of blood and flesh from its surface.

While he was cleaning the car, Mr. Ashok joined him. He was comforting himself by reflecting that the child was likely homeless and would not be missed. Balram reassured him as well, and then, feeling he had respectfully performed his duty, went to sleep.

The next morning, the Mongoose arrived in Delhi. Balram was called upstairs, to find only the Mongoose and a lawyer waiting for him. Mr. Ashok and Pinky Madam were in their rooms. The Mongoose greeted Balram with uncharacteristic warmth and pressured him to take some paan. The lawyer then gave Balram a paper to sign. It was a confession; they wanted Balram to take full responsibility for the hit-and-run. The Mongoose informed Balram that he had already explained the situation to the servant's family, and that Kusum had agreed to serve as witness to the document.

Balram concludes this section of his narrative seething with violent rage. He expresses disgust with the circumstances in India, where servants are frequently framed for the crimes of their masters, and the servants' families are so deluded that they actually brag that their boy has been so "loyal" (145).


In this chapter, Balram's complicated relationship to his landlord grows deeper, while his resentment of the class divide in India grows sharper. The reader can begin to see how these contradictions in Balram will lead him towards the mental instability that allow him to not only commit but also to justify cold-blooded murder. In particular, he finds himself more deliberately pursuing a lifestyle in imitation of a class he also despises.

The symbol of the chandelier remains a great symbol for Balram's complicated relationship with wealth, and the extremes that obsession drive him to. In the discussion that opens this chapter, it becomes clear that Balram’s fixation upon chandeliers is linked to his belief that he is unique and exceptional among his peers. Balram considers them to be “unsung and unloved” objects, and believes that others do not appreciate their utility and beauty to the extent that he does. “I don’t understand why other people don’t buy chandeliers all the time, and put them up everywhere,” he states, somewhat condescendingly adding: “Free people don’t understand the value of freedom, that’s the problem” (97). Balram’s belief in his own exceptionalism is crucial to his development of an alternate system of morals. He is an iteration of the Nietzchian “over-man,” a literary echo of Crime and Punishment’s Rodion Raskolnikov, especially considering that the murder Balram commits also necessitates the murder of his family.

However, this alternate system of morals is crucial towards his self-improvement. As a means of moving himself along to the path to this destiny, Balram’s efforts at self-improvement and self-fashioning are becoming more overt. His newfound determination to break uncouth country habits, such as chewing paan and compulsively scratching his groin, represents a concentrated attempt to prepare himself for life outside of the Darkness. Spurred by Pinky Madam’s harsh criticisms, these developments demonstrate Balram’s willingness to take his fate into his own hands. That he would refashion himself on the criticisms of a woman he despises, however, give this story a twisted edge that conflict with the admiration the reader might also feel for him.

The relationship between Ashok and Balram is even more complex. The physical link that exists between them is further established in this section, as Balram finds himself also coveting Pinky Madam. Meanwhile, Balram notes a growing sense of respect between him and Mr. Ashok, who constantly defends Balram's loyalty. Meanwhile, Balram frequently expresses his esteem for Ashok in the present tense, making the murder all the more perverse.

However, we come to understand their disconnect when Balram recognizes Ashok’s weaknesses. Despite the loyalty he feels, he takes a step towards feeling superior to the man. Balram sees himself as a powerful “White Tiger,” more like the Mongoose or the Stork in terms of ambition and shrewdness.

Meanwhile, Adiga continues to ruthlessly expose the shortcomings of government infrastructure and institutions in India. The rampant pollution and debilitating traffic jams that paralyze Delhi are tangible symptoms of modernization gone awry. More heart-wrenching is Adiga’s exposé of how servants are forced to do prison time for their masters. This detestable practice is enabled by a corrupt judicial system that ignores the blatantly forced confessions, and by a perverted cultural attitude that demands servility and loyalty among the servant class.

Finally, Adiga develops the motif of the lone protestor within this section of the novel. The man who tries to enter the shopping mall despite his lower-class attire, and then cries out against injustice when denied entry, is a reflection of the man who attempted to exercise his right to vote and was subsequently murdered for his failure to comply with the Great Socialist’s election fraud scheme. Just as the man at the voting booth was attempting to claim his basic rights of participating in India’s democracy, the man at the shopping mall is attempting to assert his own right to take part in its modern, Westernized commercial culture. While neither of these protestors are successful, it is clear that Balram is taking note of their efforts, silently preparing for a moment in which he, too, can break free of the limitations placed upon him by the Darkness.