Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Committee Chair

Eric Smith

Committee Member

Joseph Taylor

Committee Member

Alanna Frost

Subject(s)

Aravind Adiga., Democracy., Democratization--India., Poor in literature., Social conflict--India--Fiction., India--In literature.

Abstract

Aravind Adiga's 2008 debut novel The White Tiger was met with tremendous critical and commercial success after receiving the prestigious Man Booker Prize. However, his second novel Last Man In Tower was not so well received among critics and consumers. While both novels perform inefficiencies within India's democratic politics, they present protagonists who respond quite differently to India's democratic processes. The White Tiger's Balram encounters India's corrupt democratic system, discerns its ideological function, and cannily effects an escape from it. While many critics assume that Balram's effort is a success and attribute Indian political corruption to the persistence of native cultural hierarchies and traditions, I argue that Balram's heroic exceptionality may rather be regarded as a symptomatic process of de-democratization occurring in contemporary liberal democracies throughout the world. However, if The White Tiger promotes the individualist abandonment of democratic collectivity and the assertion of individual will to resist India's oppressive political system, Last Man In Tower's protagonist, Masterji, effects an adequate resistance that clears space for authentic democratic collectivity before he is murdered. Masterji's brief space-clearing resistance is easily missed without considering it alongside Balram's failed emancipation. When read together, Adiga's novels generate a complete critique of Indian democracy and demonstrate the necessary forms of resistance that will materialize real democracy.

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