In “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga, the author portrays the theme of Western versus Eastern society through an upper class Indian landlord that is caught between the oppressive culture in which he was raised and the liberated culture in which his wife has instilled upon him. Mr. Ashok is a man born into tremendous wealth and power. His father and brother exemplify the traditional Indian landlord that Balram had become so accustomed to meeting whereas Mr. Ashok was completely opposite. Where his father and brother wanted to instill fear upon their servants, Mr. Ashok simply wanted their services. Mr. Ashok had spent time in the United States and married an American woman who undoubtedly westernized him from his appearance down to his perspective on how people should be treated.
Balram is called up to the apartment the night after being told he was going to take the blame for Pinky Madam running over a young child. Upon entering the room he is ordered to massage Mr. Ashok’s father’s feet. This upset Balram so much that he urinated himself but like a good servant he complied with big smile. As he is massaging his feet, Pinky Madam entered the room noticeably distraught. Balram took time to notice that she had no make-up on and looked like a mess which he had never witnessed before (pg. 153). Adiga is trying to show that for the first time Pinky Madam is going to put herself on Balram’s level because she no longer feels necessary to prove her higher stature through her appearance.
For the first time in the novel, Pinky Madam sticks up for Balram as she no longer agrees with the way her husband’s family treats their servant. Pinky Madam asks he husband if they had told Balram the news in which she got no response from anyone in the room, not even Mr. Ashok who had usually stuck up for Balram. Next, Pinky’s westernized attitude comes to a forefront. Pinky exclaims, “Has no one told him? What a fucking joke! He’s the one who was going to go to jail” (pg.153)! She had witnessed multiple cases of human rights abuse but it wasn’t until now that she realized how backwards Eastern society was in her eyes. This westernized view of the world is what she instilled upon Mr. Ashok whether he was aware of it or not.
At this point in the novel we have seen two sides of Mr. Ashok: the man his family wanted him to be and the man his wife wanted him to be. Mr. Ashok had often come to the aide of Balram when he would be verbally abused but whenever Balram needed him the most he would disappear. Mr. Ashok was in a constant struggle to find his identity but ultimately the culture he was born into would prevail. He stated, “When I was in America, I thought family was a burden, I don’t deny it. When you and Father tried to stop me from marrying Pinky because she wasn’t a Hindu, I was furious with you, I don’t deny it” (pg. 161). This is interesting because this statement reveals a couple different Eastern ideals that Mr. Ashok had given up on showing western culture was prevailing. He had given up the importance of family and religion to pursue life in America with Pinky. However, Mr. Ashok is now thinking he was in the wrong and should never have disobeyed the people that knew what was best for him. It’s at this moment the struggle seems to have stopped as he fully embraced Eastern society.