The White Tiger

The White Tiger Summary and Analysis of Chapter 3: The Fourth Morning


With his trademark cynicism, Balram tells the Premier about the state of democracy in India. While government propaganda brags about the splendor of Indian democracy, the reality is marred by corruption. The disconnect is especially pronounced in the Darkness. To illustrate this point, Balram recounts an exchange he once had with a government agent, who marked the boy down as eighteen years old so his vote could be counted, even though Balram actually had no idea when his birthday was. It was important that his vote count, since the tea shop owner had already sold his employees' votes to the party of the Great Socialist.

Balram then describes the Great Socialist. People disagree about whether the politician began with good intentions and then became corrupt, or if he was “dirty from the start” (81). Regardless, it had become impossible to vote him out of power, even as his hold over the Darkness was weakening due to 93 pending criminal cases against him and his ministers, for charges ranging from murder to rape and gun-running. Despite the corrupt justice system, several convictions had already been handed down.

Balram recounts the election that took place during the year of his arbitrarily assigned "eighteenth birthday" (81). The Darkness was seized by election fever, which Balram describes as a disease that “makes people talk and talk about things they have no say in” (82). During this year, the arrangement between the four landlords and the Great Socialist had apparently fallen through, so the landlords had formed their own party, the All India Social Progressive Front (Leninist Faction). To help this new party, Vijay quit his job as a bus conductor to become an activist.

However, it soon became clear that this new party was merely a tactic intended to force the Great Socialist to bargain with the landlords. It proved successful, and the Stork was named the president of the Laxmangarh branch of the Great Socialist’s party, with Vijay as his deputy. Yet again, the common people were only pawns in the machinations. Balram recalls his father daydreaming about people in the Light who actually get to exercise their right to vote.

On the day of the election, one man “went mad” and actually tried to vote, rather than simply letting his vote be sold (84). In retaliation, Vijay and a policeman beat the man to death. Balram admits to the Premier that he is a murderer and a sinner, but insists that he is outraged to be a called a murderer by the police, who have much more blood on their hands than he ever could. He amusedly notes that even though he is a fugitive, his vote continues to be counted in the sham elections held in Laxmangarh through the present day.

Balram then returns to his main story of working for Mr. Ashok. He recounts how the Great Socialist once had a meeting at the Stork's mansion with the Stork, his sons, and Vijay. He describes the Great Socialist as having “puffy cheeks, spiky white hair” and “thick gold earrings” (86).

Later that night, Balram eavesdropped on a discussion between the Stork and his sons to learn that the Stork pays bribes so that he can take coal from government mines for free. The Great Socialist turns a blind eye to the theft, and thus has the Stork made his fortune. In the conversation, the Stork's sons insisted that they no longer needed the Great Socialist, and should not pay his bribe of a million and a half rupees. They did not want to be treated like “slaves” any longer (89). Before he could eavesdrop further, Balram was caught and reprimanded by the Nepali servant, Ram Bahadur.

The next morning, Ram Bahadur informed Balram that Ashok and Pinky Madam were soon leaving for Delhi, and would only take one driver, whom they would pay the impressive salary of 3000 rupees a month. Balram was obviously envious of the opportunity, and Ram Bahadur offered to ensure he was chosen if Balram would pay him the large sum of 5000 rupees. Balram had no idea how he could raise such a sum.

Late that night, Balram was awoken by Ram Persad, who was chopping onions. Balram lay awake, trying to understand what the other driver's secret was. He explains that Ram Persad did not eat with the other servants, and that his breath had become unpleasant. He resolved to investigate the man more closely.

After realizing that Ram Persad left the house at the same time each evening, Balram followed him one night to discover that Ram Persad was traveling to a mosque. Balram deduced that the man was secretly a Muslim who was observing the holy month of Ramadan. It was obvious that Ram Persad wanted to hide this fact from his employers, since he filled his room with Hindu icons, so many that they intimidated Balram by making him feel insufficiently pious.

With this information, Balram confronted Ram Bahadur, who would have been responsible for checking Ram Persad’s background before the driver was hired. By insinuating that Ram Bahadur was in on the scam, Balram gained the man's allegiance, and quickly rose to a position of power above the other servants. Soon enough, he was sleeping in the bed, and giving orders to Ram Bahadur. Meanwhile, his secret uncovered, Ram Persad left the Stork's service, and Balram was appointed to accompany Mr. Ashok and Pinky Madam to Delhi. When he learned this news, Kishan met Balram at the gate of the Stork's mansion, overjoyed that someone in his family was making it from the Darkness to the Light of New Delhi.

Two days later, Balram drove Mr. Ashok, Pinky Madam and the Mongoose to Delhi. At one point during the drive, Ashok felt the desire to drive, and he and Balram wordlessly traded places. The Mongoose reprimanded Ashok, who then changed his mind and moved back to the passenger seat.

They reached Delhi that night. Balram warns the Premier that the rest of his story grows more complex and uncertain. He will have to “turn the chandelier up” because “the story gets much darker from here” (95).


One of the great ironies in Indian politics that Adiga wishes to reveal is that the system purports to be democratic, while it is in fact the 'people' who suffer most under it. Balram’s description of the political process in the Darkness powerfully illustrates the debilitating effects of corruption on democracy. Though the Great Socialist is believed to be based on the actual Indian politician Lalu Prasad Yadav, he also serves a more broad characterization of a typical corrupt politician from the Darkness. His political symbol — a pair of hands breaking their shackles — is frequently mentioned by Balram, and serves as a deeply ironic image. Though he promises to break the people free from their limitations, he in fact exploits those limitations for his own gain.

What is perhaps most disheartening about Balram's depiction is that one cannot become successful in such a corrupt system without becoming as corrupt as the system itself. The opponents of the Great Socialist demonstrate this inevitable reality; in their quest to unseat the corrupt politician, they must also bribe policemen and purchase fraudulent votes, thereby becoming as corrupt as the Great Socialist himself (82). Their attempt to create a new party - one theoretically centered around the people - proves to be only a ruse worthy of the Socialist's corruption.

This process of becoming ensnared in the unethical nature of one’s surroundings is reflected on a smaller scale by Balram throughout his journey to the top. Consider how he manipulates Ram Persad in order to become the number one servant. He briefly pities Ram Persad for the difficult life he has led, having to lie about his religion and hide his identity, even changing his name, all for a job as a driver— a job which Balram freely admits Ram Persad excels at, becoming “a far better driver” than Balram would ever be (93). However, Balram quickly stifles his sympathy and looks out for himself. As he hears Ram Persad packing to leave, he chooses not to ask forgiveness - instead, he merely “turned to the other side, farted, and went back to sleep” (93). Where he once resented the way Ram Persad treated him, he soon enough finds himself treating the lower servants in the exact same way.

This is an important moment in Balram’s transformation — he is developing his own set of morals, in line with the ethically ambiguous nature of life in the Darkness. He claims to learn from the world around him, and what he has learned most of all is that improving oneself requires one to compromise one's values. The only way to escape the Darkness, it seems, is to become tinged by its dubious morality, lowering one’s self to the level of one’s surroundings in the hope of ultimately escaping them. What Adiga means to criticize is less Balram and more a world that requires such compromise in order to succeed.

However, no matter how high Balram rises, he remains ensnared by a servant mentality. Note how the mysterious relationship between Ashok and Balram is further developed en route to Delhi. The employer and his driver share a strange moment of intimacy, when Balram wordlessly understands Ashok’s desire to drive the car and they exchange places. The moment in which they trade seats is described with vivid, sensual imagery, with Balram detailing the touching of their bodies and exchange of scents over the course of the “heady instant” (94). The fluidity that exists between the two twinned characters, suggested in the previous section by an overlapping of sensations, is thus further demonstrated in this moment by an actual instance of physical intimacy and a literal interchange of physical positions. Balram's contradictions continue to manifest as the novel progresses, and he becomes more and more difficult to categorize, just like the country he so proudly aims to represent.