The Ugly Duckling

Aravind Adiga presents the idea of there being a “rooster coop” in India, one that keeps the master-slave dynamic thriving between the upper-class and the lower-class citizens. The idea is simple but incredibly appropriate, just like chickens or roosters in a coop, all smushed together, hardly any room to feel comfortable and even less to move. They take advantage at whatever the coop allows for, but never reaching beyond it’s perimeters, mostly spending their time eating and untold to them, waiting to die. Even when they see one of their own taken and possibly see them killed, they remain humble towards the coop. The birds in the coop are subjected to the will of the farmer, just like the lower-class subject themselves day in and day out to the will of their employers good or bad; but in most cases, bad. There are no uprisings among the workers, like the poultry they effectively move through their days waiting to die or be sent to prison for their master.

Luckily, Balram, makes the transition from rooster to white tiger and becomes a man of his own, an entrepreneur. Many argue over whether or not killing his master and signing his family members death warrants was justified or not. If it is or is not is not the issue of the book. Adiga makes clear that Balram has two choices: stay as a servant and be merely a means for money to his family or become a free man forever carting around his conscious. We can’t nit-pick at his choices for a few reasons. The first being, we’re not him and cannot begin to fully grasp his situation. Second, seeing as we’re not him, we can’t come in and interpret his actions with our own experience that is quite opposite Balram’s and further, if we do try to approach it from however close we can get to understanding/feeling his situation, we’d be left with the same choices and would have to choose one. Which leads me to my last reason which is: Adiga gives us no choice, he’s either going to kill or serve which is the central issue to this book. We can practically empathize with Balram for killing his family, he’s fucked either way; we can’t judge him for the choice he makes and it’s subsequent actions.

I believe Adiga is saying India is shrouded in darkness, the system is so oppressive that people coming from the same place as Balram are faced with lose-lose options. Lose your family or yourself.


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