The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga | Art of the First Chapter
I just read the book the White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. The book won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. It also was the nominee for John Llewellyn Rhys Prize Nominee (2008), and PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize (2009). This is Aravind Adiga’s first book. He is the fourth Indian-born author to win the prize, after Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, and Kiran Desai.
I want to talk about the first chapter of the book.
Adiga’s starting is Interesting
Because in the first chapter, we see the brilliance of Adiga’s writing. The first chapter is nearly 47 pages long, and in it, Adiga sets the many important parts of a book. Like character, motive, direction and the tone of the story. Not a tough job. But what made this great is the way of kidnapping the reader with his consent while doing it.
How he does it?
The first sentence of the book is—
Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English.
The sentence immediately pulls you because of its bluntness and treachery.
Like in 1984, George Orwell’s starts with, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
Leo Tolstoy did start Anna Karenina with, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Invisible start with, “I am an invisible man.”.
What is common in all of them?
They all are no-nonsense.
Well, to understand, let’s scatter this sentence.
First part is,
Neither you nor I speak English
That sentence, at first read, tells you that the listener and the narrator are both non-English person. And in this simple basic way, they both are related.
Another way of saying the same thing is
We both do not speak English. Or we both are not English speaking people. English is not our language. And etc..
They all lack the hit of the first liner.
Then the second part is,
but there are some things that can be said only in English.
We all know it is not true. This is the trick. Played by Aravind Adiga.
Because this is not true, now we need an answer or some explanations.., curiosity binds us to read the next para.
Immediately then the next paragraph is long enough to involve the reader and it ends with “I said that things at once”.
Aravind Adiga digs your curiosity
This small phrase again creates curiosity in the reader’s mind. We unconsciously want to know what exactly the narrator had said in English. And under 5 pages he says this sentence three more times. On the 5th page, he tells the reader what is that thing he only can say in English.
This is a small and cunning trick that makes the person read the first five pages. And in just five pages, when the reader was searching that English phrase, Adiga set the base of his first chapter.
That base answers why the narrator is telling his story and why he thinks his story is important.
And if you write it simply, it will not be as attractive as Adiga made it.
After knowing that phrase which is:
“What a fucking joke”.
The reader wants to know why he said it. But the author has already given the reason of it between the lines. The readers know it but he still turns the page to confirm his assumption.
And then from the next page starts the story of the narrator. And the social commentary of the author.
In next few pages, the author tells the most common secret of success in most brutal and real manner.
Colours of Writing
The writing of Aravind Adiga is angry but it never shows his anger. You felt the anger in words. The hatred and disgust radiate from the narrator’s voice. It never takes a form, though. It kind of make all edgy.
Then at page 12, Adiga did something clever. Every other book you read describes his characters simply from someone’s point of view. But here, the narrator portrays himself, and not from his mind but from a wanted poster. He takes out a wanted poster and starts reading from it.
Here reader starts to know with whom he exactly is talking. That increases the will to know more.
First thing arises in mind after that poster is why he is on a wanted poster. From there, narrator breaks up the poster and start talking about each part individually. We know that the reason of that poster will be explained at the end of the chapter and we start moving towards it.
This is like, you have somehow known the answer, but you still are solving the question because you started having fun in the process.
Following Aravind Adiga
We do not skip pages because we now believe in Adiga that he will take us through it carefully if we just follow him.
The narrator starts with the explaining how he got his name, then he tells about his village and then district, then his father, and then he talks about the crime that he is wanted for.
Adiga made each section full of information regarding the character, as it is a story from his point of view; we see his village and district as he sees them. We cannot argue with him. He talks with reason and logic and often makes the mockery of the different system of Indian society. Caste, Religion, Judiciary, Landlord are some system to be named of.
You read all because that is the power of his Adiga’s writing.
Banking of Road
The narrator starts telling about the village and also tells you about his mother’s death, smartly. You never realise that when the narrator has taken the bend.
He did it again when he talks about his father and the district. He starts with his father’s occupation and with excellent crafty manner, he also throws the landlords and Naxalites and before you start wandering he takes you back to the same route.
Let me explain a little.
Narrator started with his district, and then he commented on a river, then on the river ghats. Then his mother’s cremation at one of the ghats, here enters the family, then the village and so on..
It all connects superbly. No cuts, but a montage.
And now you know more than you intended to know without knowing that you know it. This knowledge you have gain came helpful later in the book.
Lastly, in the chapter when the narrator explains the part in which has written why he is wanted, we think like, now I know why he is wanted.
But this is the half-truth that poster tell. And the last sentence is a hook; the ace of the chapter played by Aravind Adiga is when the narrator tells with the apathy that he slit the throat of his master.
That’s how the First chapter of the White Tiger gone.
From here the story exactly starts. The journey of narrator starts from here and we move with him from the first step. But the first chapter is what pushes you on the road. I mean of course race start from the beginning line but gunshot pushes the racers.
The first chapter is very similar to it.
Well played sir.
The blurb of The White Tiger:
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.
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Or tell your favourite first chapter.