Dire Warnings

In Bangalore, Balram listens to a speech by The Great Socialist and begins wondering about the possibility of an Indian revolution to overthrow the Rooster Coop.

“Maybe once in a hundred years there is a revolution that frees the poor… only four men in history have led successful revolutions to free the slaves and kill their masters, this page said: Alexander the Great. Abraham Lincoln of America. Mao of your country. And a fourth man. It may have been Hitler, I can’t remember.”

First off, Toussaint L’Ouverture and his compatriots might have something to say about that.

Now, Balram isn’t an educated man, but he’s picked up quite a few things and he’s an astute listener. Why, then, does he keep forgetting the fourth name in his lists (the first being, of course, the 4 great Muslim poets)? Obviously, Adiga wants readers to pay attention to these sections. In the case of the poets, Adiga seems to be leaving the list open for readers to consider Muslim poets (in an attempt to finish the list). This fits with the undercurrent of the importance of education (especially self-education) running throughout the novel.

With the list of revolutionaries, however, we get a quite differrent response-shaping. Alexander was a king and a conqueror, who ended up losing in India just before dying in Babylon. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation as a political statement– slaves were given their freedom from an established authority. Mao turned his People’s Revolution into a dictatorship a la Stalin (although an answer in this interview notes that there are some basic benefits of living in an ostensibly communist state). What, then, are we to make of the fourth spot in the list? Why Hitler?

The Treaty of Versailles wasn’t kind to Germany; inflation was bad enough that a meal would cost more when you had eaten it than when you had ordered it. That humiliation is exactly what gave Hitler the conditions necessary for his rise to power. He was able to exploit the hardships undergone by every German, turn their anger towards something nationalistic, and institute fascism. This may be exactly what Adiga is pointing out: if revolution doesn’t come from within, a charismatic individual can give the people exactly what they thought they wanted.


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