Monday, April 29, 2013

The Power of Greed: Book Review On Aravind Adiga's Last Man In Tower

 The point of this review is more to dispense my troubled feelings about this book than to persuade or dissuade anyone from reading it. I felt something akin to word vomit as I wrote this review so please don't get upset if you find the occasional spoiler within this review. Most of my remarks come from personal feelings about the book and my reactions to my class discussion of this novels.


I gave Last Man In Tower by Aravind Adiga  four stars not because I was head over heels in love with it, but because it lead me to have profound thoughts about the condition of humanity. While this book was required reading for me for Graduate School, there were many times when I wanted to throw it clear across the room out of frustration and anger at the characters' actions.

The story's theme focuses around the duty that one has to his/her community. In this novel, Masterji, a retired Physics teacher living in a co-op in Vakola, Mumbai along with his neighbors are offered the chance to sell their shares in their old apartment building for close to $2,900,000. However, the catch is that the group must do so unanimously. For many in the co-op, the idea of having money and being able to move up in the world is enticing enough to sign without much of a hassle, but for Masterji, the idea of leaving a place where his deceased wife and daughter's last memory rest is unthinkable. Therefore, Masterji refuses to sign and rages a one man  opposition to the builder's proposal. ***SPOILER***Frustrated, his neighbors take matters into their own hands and kills him***SPOILER***

Here, is where my distaste for Adiga's novel sets in. For the whole of the novel, Masterji's neighbor's complained of this man's disregard for his community's wishes yet, everyone ultimately betrayed his wishes for greed. It was argued in my class that Masterji was in the wrong for his action's of refusing to agree to abandon his home and go along with the co-op's wishes however, in my opinion, this line of thinking seems twisted. For the first half of the novel, the individuals of the Vishram Society regarded themselves as "respectable" people and prided themselves on living as upstanding middle class Indians that were commited to doing what was right for their community however, as soon as money was presented to them, they each became greedy and intolerable characters who only thought of themselves exclusively. If the individuals in the society had had better reasons for their actions, I would have felt less trepidation at the characters' final actions, but these characters betrayed Masterji for dollar signs moreso than what they claimed was their chance at "happiness." To me, this greed in Adiga's characters hardened my belief that money really is the cause of all evil.

Not one character in the novel actually ventured to hear Masterji out when he said he wanted nothing from the builder. Since the other characters bathed in the anticipation of becoming rich, they assumed that all Masterji wanted was more money. Even this character's son rejected his father's will and focused more on the money than hearing his father out. This tunnel vision by the other characters sickened me and made reading this novel hard. I wanted to believe by the novel's end that one of them would take pity on Masterji and understand things from his point of view however, this act never surfaced.***SPOILER*** Even though one member of the co-op did get cold feet in the end, this character chose to regain his immorality by the novel's end.***SPOILER***

This being said, Adiga's story is well-crafted and worth a read regardless of it's raw portrayal of humanity. My only gripe besides anger at the characters' pettiness and greed is that in some places, the author overwhelmed the reader with too many details and back history/story. This verboseness had me struggling to keep myself invested in the overall action of the novel (I actually found the last 1/4 of the book to be the best part of the novel). Overall, I would recommend this book at least, as a way to have someone else to discuss the themes and topics in this novel with.

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