HL essay exemplar 6: The White Tiger

HL Essay Exemplar 6: The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

The following response to the novel The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is not as strong as some of the previous samples, although the candidate still does enough to be considered at least 'satisfactory' in all criteria.  As such it is an interesting example to look at with students in order to discuss how analysis and interpretation can be taken further in order to reach the higher bands.  

The sample essay is available as a PDF and can also be seen by clicking on the icon below.  

  Sample HL Essay: 'The White Tiger' 

HL English A Literature Essay

Text Written On: The White Tiger 

 Question:

How does Adiga use names and naming to chart and comment on his protagonist's transformation in The White Tige

In the epistolary novel The White Tiger, written by Arvind Adiga in 2008, the passive naming which the protagonist receives from other characters helps determine the protagonist's future as it charts the transformation that he undergoes. The chosen text type allows for a retrospective narration which provides a view of the protagonists’ lense throughout different stages of his voyage. Hence, allowing the readers to make a continuous comparison of his present and past transformation. Throughout the text, each name that the protagonist receives is one step up the societal-ladder and closer to his ultimate goal, which is becoming “the white tiger”. Additionally, the names received are deterministic to the protagonist's behavior, and they satirically portray the Indian society. Adiga utilizes symbolism, irony, and structural composition to convey the protagonist's transformation of identity through having him receive different names, which ultimately transform him into “the white tiger”.  

Adiga’s chronological use of naming and retrospect allows for contrast of the protagonist's transformation from the beginning to the end of the novel.  He firstly names the protagonist ‘Munna’, which is encountered as the narrator extracts pieces from his wanted poster. The poster reads “the man in the picture namely Balram Halwai alias MUNNA” (12). The name Munna translates to boy, which emphasizes the dehumanisation of people from lower castes in India as they are powerless to make choices, even when it comes to their names. To further exhibit the dehumanization of the individuals who live in “darkness”, including the protagonist, Adiga outlines how all the people in lower castes are homogenous as he writes “ Me, and thousands of others in this country like me, are half-baked” (10). The term half-baked is a repetitive metaphor that highlights the dynamic character’s development and makes an ironic link to his caste. Therefore, this name mirrors the insignificance of the protagonist at the beginning of the novel as it makes him blend in with the rest. 

Adiga’s choice of naming the protagonist Munna at the beginning of the text assists in the transformation he will have as his coming of age is apparent through being called boy to being the rarest animal in the jungle, the “white tiger”. The letter starts off with “The White Tiger, a Thinking Man And an entrepreneur.” (3) Adigas’ insertion of these names in the beginning of the novel allows for immediate comparison of how the protagonist went from being called boy to these three meaningful titles which hold significant weighting in the society, therefore, outlining the overarching theme of transformation. The retrospective narration allows for contrast to be made as it progressively tells the story of the protagonist through flashbacks, hence allowing for a deeper understanding of how the protagonist has earned his three well-respected titles presented at the beginning of the novel. To give the reader a better understanding of the meaning of the white tiger, Adiga uses dialogue between the protagonist and school inspector“ In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals - the creature that comes along only once in a generation?”(36). This line describes the symbolism of the white tiger as it foreshadows the uniqueness, intelligence, and ruthlessness that the protagonist will later adopt. Adiga proceeds with his satirical commentary by having the jungle symbolize the Indian society which determines the protagonists' names, therefore, allowing for his transformation. 

Furthermore, to emphasize the recurring satire of the repressive Indian society, Adiga utilizes an analogy of the caste system to portray social status through surnames. Therefore, Adiga gives the protagonist the last name of, Halwai, which translates to sweet-maker, hence providing evidence of the low family status that the protagonist emanated from. The use of this surname portrays the prerequisite skills that the Indian society has provided the protagonist with, however, through his interchange of names he is able to overcome this obstacle and make a name of himself.  Through the utilization of this analogy, it exemplifies the protagonist's extreme transformation as there is a drastic transition from the beginning to the end of the protagonist's journey. In parallel with this, the constant change of the protagonist's names portrays the shift of hierarchical position as he becomes the white tiger and breaks out of the cage, which symbolizes the caste system. To outline the stigma associated with the low caste system in India, Adiga portrays the protagonist's empathy for other people in his caste by saying “ So he was another half-baked. My caste.” (207) By constantly having the protagonist compare himself to others throughout the text, it highlights the transformation by making the analogy ironic as being “half-baked” is a reference to both the protagonist's underdevelopment and his caste. 

Progressively, Adiga refers to the protagonist as “Balram” and “country-mouse” to identify the character's growth and his stages along the Indian societal-ladder. The name Balram is explored when he has been named it by his teacher. The teacher explains to him that Balram is “ the sidekick of the god Krishna” (14), thus giving the protagonist a sense of value in comparison to his surname which is given to him by the close-minded society. This spotlights the transformation of the protagonist as he simply goes from being called boy to being named after the sidekick of a Hindu god, which ironically happens to be his teacher's name. This illustrates the significance of the protagonist receiving this name, as it shows that the teacher is rewarding the protagonist through his own perception of the protagonist's transformation. Later this is seen again when one driver, “vitiligo lips'', calls the protagonist a “country-mouse”. This is done ironically to satirize the innocence of the protagonist's first experiences in the big city of Delhi. This label reinforces the idea of the protagonist's transformation as he eventually breaks out of being a small insignificant animal to becoming the rarest creature. 

Adiga crafts an ironic ending as the first name that the protagonist chooses for himself is his ex-masters’. This provides evidence that the protagonist's deterministic titles he received from others, influenced him to extract certain characteristics of people he was surrounded by, like his ex-master. Furthermore, Adiga’s choice of creating the characteristics that transform the protagonist to be ruthlessness and intelligence compliment the motif of his ex-master and the white tiger mirroring the transformation that the protagonist undergoes. The protagonist's ruthlessness gives him the motivation to break-out of the “rooster-coop” as he kills anyone standing in his way, which is seen when he murders his ex-master and his family. Moreover, the structure of this novel creates a twist for the audience as the letters were primarily sent off by “the white tiger” but in the end are sent off by “ Yours forever, Ashok Sharma, The White Tiger”.This is ironic as it depicts that the protagonist has now transformed into two new characters.

To capture the underlying satire of the novel, the protagonist goes on a trip to the zoo to visit the cage of the “white tiger” right before he murders his ex-master. The symbolism of the tiger being in a cage allows for further comparison between the protagonist and the white tiger as the protagonist is also captured in the cage of the rooster coop. The name of the white tiger, symbolizing a predatory animal, allows Adiga to show that the protagonist's transformation is unique and ruthless as he is able to escape his cage. As the white tiger approaches, Adiga uses symbolism through both the white tigers’ eyes and his ex-masters’ to foreshadow the two last titles that the protagonist receives at the end, as they reflect how the protagonist used these two characters to explore his own identity. As the protagonist sees the tiger approaching he says “ The tigers’ eyes met my eyes, like my master’s eyes have met mine so often in the mirror of the car” (277). This simile provides evidence of how imagery of the eyes and rear view mirror are used as a motif to illustrate that these two characters reflect the protagonist's transformation through his achievement of making these two names reality. Furthermore, when he visits the cage, the protagonist comes to a realization of his transformation as it causes him to faint as the “white tiger” approaches. This then gives the protagonist the motivation to kill his ex-master and be free from the rooster-coop, like a ruthless white tiger that breaks out from his cage in the zoo. Hence, this finally allows him to pick his own identity and name. 

In conclusion, all the names that the protagonist receives are given to reward his status in the societal system. The utilization of the names Munna, Halwai, Balram, country-mouse, white tiger, and Ashok Sharma shows the progressive stages of the protagonist's transformation. Moreover, Adiga offers a satirical perspective of the protagonist's transformation as most names satirize modern India and portray the gulf between rich and poor. The transformation is highlighted through the use of symbolism, irony, and structural composition which are interwoven together to portray the protagonist's breakthrough as the ‘white tiger’. 


Word Count: 1,495

Works Cited

Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger. London, Atlantic Books, 2012.

Criterion A: Knowledge, understanding and interpretation (5 marks)
  • To what extent does the student show knowledge and understanding of the work or text?
  • To what extent does the student use their knowledge and understanding to reach conclusions about the work or text in relation to their chosen topic?

3 out of 5

While there are frequent references to the novel, demonstrating a decent knowledge of the text, the response is limited in terms of using this to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the implications presented by the satire and social commentary of the work.  

Criterion B: Analysis and evaluation (5 marks)
  • To what extent does the student analyze and evaluate how language, style, and wider authorial choices influence meaning in relation to their chosen topic?

3 out of 5

The response does identify a range of authorial choices although it is often descriptive rather than analytical and misses opportunities to analyse the effects and implications of these features in greater depth. Nevertheless there are attempts to address metaphorical or symbolic implications of names in general, although therir satirical attempt is not analysed insightfully. The more effective treatment is the evaluation of the protagonist taking on the final name and the broader idea of transformation. 

Criterion C: Focus, organization, and development (5 marks)
  • To what extent is the presentation of ideas organized, focused, and developed?
  • How effectively has the student integrated supporting examples into their essay?

3 out of 5

The response is generally organised and there is some development of a line of inquiry.  

Criterion D: Language (5 marks)
  • How clear, varied, and accurate is the student's language?
  • To what extent is the student's choice of register, style, and terminology appropriate?

4 out of 5

Language is somewhat complex with a consistent use of appropriate register and style.  It is mostly accurate despite some minor lapses.  

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